Self-directed learning of leadership involves five discoveries, each representing a discontinuity. The goal, of course, is to use each discovery as a tool for making the changes needed to become an emotionally intelligent leader.
This kind of learning is recursive: The steps do not unfold in a smooth, orderly way, but rather follow a sequence, with each step demanding different amounts of time and effort. The results of practicing new habits over time are that they become part of your new real self. Often changes in your habits, emotional intelligence and leadership styles, come changes in your aspirations and dreams, your ideal self. And so, the cycle continues – a lifelong process of growth and adaptation.
When you go through the discovery of uncovering an ideal version of yourself, you feel motivated to develop your leadership abilities. That is, you see the person you want to be. Whether this vision comes to you in a dream, through getting in touch with the values and commitments that guide your life, or through simple reflection, the image is powerful enough to evoke your passion and hope. It becomes the fuel that maintains the drive you need to work at the difficult and often frustrating process of change.
The second discovery is akin to considering a mirror to discover who you are now – how you act, how others view you, and what your deep beliefs comprise. Some of these observations will be consistent with your ideal self, and can be considered strengths; others will represent gaps between who you are and who you want to be. This realisation of your strengths and gaps prepares the way for changing your leadership style.
But for that to succeed, you’ll need to develop an agenda for improving abilities, which is the third discovery. A plan of action needs to be contracted that provides detailed guidance on what new things to try each day, building on your strengths and moving you closer to your ideal. The plan should feel intrinsically satisfying, fitting your learning preferences as well as the realities of your life and work.
The fourth discovery comes in practising new leadership skills and experimenting with new ideas along the way.
The fifth discovery may occur at any point in the process. It is that you need others to identify your ideal self or find your real self, to discover your strengths and gaps, to develop an agenda for the future, and to experiment and practice. Leadership development can only occur in the tumult and possibilities of our relationships. Others help us see things we are missing, affirm whatever progress we have made, test our perceptions, and let us know how we are doing. They provide the context for exponentiation and practice. Although the model is called a self-directed learning process, it cannot be done alone. Without others’ involvement, lasting change can’t occur.
To summarise the process, people who successfully change in sustainable ways cycle through the following stages:
Ideally, the progression occurs through a discontinuity – a moment – that provokes not just awareness, but also a sense of urgency.
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