Leadership means different things to different people. It is no surprise then that there are so many different approaches to leadership. And for each approach, it seems, there are tons of books, trainings and conferences available to anyone who wants to become a more effective leader.
This is not a bad thing. The fact is that no single leadership approach will always be effective in every situation or community. And there is no single leadership style or philosophy that can make everyone a better leader. Having a wide range of leadership styles and philosophies helps us make more positive change in our world.
That is why the Bush Fellowship is so flexible. Fellows are not required to pursue a particular path to build their leadership skills. Instead, they have the freedom to determine what they need to learn or experience to become a more effective leader. But with so many different options, choosing the right path can be daunting.
In my role as director of the Bush Foundation’s Leadership Program, I have the great fortune to work with people from all walks of life who want to become more effective leaders. No matter who I speak with, I always say that before deciding what to do, it is important to ask yourself the following five questions.
- WHY YOU?
Before you decide what to do to be a more effective leader, it is important to know why you want to become a more effective leader. Being clear about your motives, as well as the experience and skills you offer, is an important first step in creating a plan to improve your leadership skills.
- WHO ELSE?
Effective leaders work with and through others to achieve their goals. Giving thought to the people who you can begin to learn from, who can support your work, and who you need to inspire to create positive change in your community will go a long way to identify the right leadership development path for you.
- HOW WELL DO YOU WORK WITH OTHERS?
One of the most important parts of leadership is working with people whose backgrounds, experiences and perspectives are different than your own. Taking time to honestly reflect on ways you can be better at working across differences will help you be a more inclusive and equitable leader.
- WHAT WILL IT MEAN?
Often what keeps good leaders from being great is the ability to recognize the difference between intention and impact. Understanding how your intentions align with your impact will help you adapt your approach and create change that benefits everyone.
- HOW WILL YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF?
All the work you put into becoming a more effective leader won’t amount to much if you don’t take care of yourself. To quote writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation.” Honor the investment you make in yourself by taking care of yourself.