For many years, the notion of being a leader was foreign to me. It was not until I found myself in positions within the after-school world that demanded more from me, that I began to consider the possibility of leadership as a path. The responsibility to develop my skills became apparent; it was the key to moving up the ladder, to elevating myself to another level within my professional journey.
I took pride in promotions and recommendations, but I confess, I never fully grasped the idea that leadership required intentional skill development. At first, I viewed leadership and management as interchangeable—two sides of the same coin. It took time and experience to understand that they were distinct, and required different skill sets.
Reflecting on my career, I recognize the moments when I transitioned from a manager to a leader. It was not about being promoted; it was about how I carried myself, and how I interacted with those I supervised. Employees approached me, seeking guidance and mentorship, and it was then that I realized I had become a leader by influence, not just by position.
As I navigated these roles, I discovered that developing my leadership presence was critical to fulfilling my purpose of making a difference in the lives of children, youth, and families. It was not about managing programs; it was about inspiring and influencing others toward a shared purpose.
One of the greatest gifts in my leadership journey was the realization that knowing myself as an individual made me a better leader. Understanding who I am became the cornerstone of my success, propelling me forward in my mission to make a positive impact on the world.
In our collective journey to grow and make a difference, self-discovery is crucial. Learning who we are and mastering the skills to influence others toward a meaningful purpose is paramount, especially when dealing with the lives of children, youth, and the staff we lead.
So, I encourage you to adopt a more intentional attitude toward developing your leadership. Consider it not just to climb the career ladder, but to authentically connect with others and make a lasting impact.
The Action Plan for Growth
Do you aspire to become a more effective leader, master emotional intelligence, and enhance your overall well-being? If the answer is a resounding "yes," then you are on the right track! The foundation for you to not only envision but actively pursue your leadership and emotional intelligence development. It is time to put your intentions into action.
The Action Plan: Your Blueprint for Growth
The path to leadership excellence and emotional intelligence is now clear. I have provided you with an action plan template that you can personalize to map out your development journey. It is time to dive in and list the actionable steps you will take to improve your emotional intelligence, well-being, and leadership skills. This is your opportunity to set the stage for profound personal and professional growth.
A Conversation with Your Supervisor: Building Stronger Relationships
Once your action plan is complete, the next critical step is to sit down with your supervisor and have an open and honest conversation. Sharing your plan with your supervisor is more than just a formality; it is a chance to engage in a meaningful dialogue about your needs for development. In this conversation, you open the door to a valuable exchange of ideas and insights.
The Power of Feedback and Support
As you present your action plan to your supervisor, invite them to offer feedback. It is an opportunity to gain valuable perspective from someone who knows your work and can provide guidance. Embrace their suggestions and advice; this is a collaborative journey.
Building an Effective Communication Channel
Building an effective communication channel with your supervisor is essential for your leadership growth. Effective communication ensures that your intentions, progress, and challenges are well understood. By regularly engaging in constructive conversations, you can:
- Clarify Expectations: Discussing your action plan with your supervisor allows you to align your goals with the organization's objectives. You can gain clarity on what your supervisor expects from you and how you can contribute effectively.
- Receive Timely Feedback: Open communication fosters an environment where feedback can be shared in real-time. Constructive feedback is invaluable for your development, as it highlights areas where you excel and areas where you can improve.
- Resolve Challenges: When challenges arise, you have a supportive channel to discuss them. Instead of struggling in silence, you can collaborate with your supervisor to find solutions.
- Identify Growth Opportunities: Effective communication enables your supervisor to identify opportunities for your professional development. They can recommend training, projects, or experiences that align with your aspirations.
Building a Stronger Relationship
This process is not solely about your professional development; it is also an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your supervisor. Honesty and transparency are the foundation of any meaningful relationship, and by initiating this conversation, you demonstrate your commitment to growth. Your supervisor, in turn, can better understand your needs and aspirations, creating a more supportive and constructive work environment.
A Journey of Continual Growth
Remember, this conversation and action plan are not one-time events. As time progresses, you will have opportunities to revisit and update your plan and have a stronger connection with your supervisor. This ongoing dialogue ensures that your development stays on track and aligns with your evolving goals.
For more tools, resources, and professional development training for leadership, join Director's Lab 2.0.
This journey of self-improvement is an exciting and fulfilling one. It is not just about becoming a better leader; it is about becoming the best version of yourself. So, go ahead, complete that action plan, have that conversation with your supervisor, and embrace the growth that awaits you.
Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration as you continue your leadership development journey. Your future as a confident and capable leader starts here!
SONIA M. TOLEDO, PhD, founded Dignity of Children® in 2008 to develop children and youth holistically and reduce education inequality. She has a PhD in education and 25-plus years of experience building quality after-school programs. She focuses on emotional intelligence training, youth development, and organizational culture change. Dignity of Children® serves after-school programs nationally, providing exceptional child and youth development training programs.