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Leadership Development: The Continuous Journey

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As you transition from the military to the civilian sector know that you are one step ahead - you have already started cultivating one skill set that will determine your professional success: your leadership skills.  However, developing strong leadership skills is a journey, not a destination.  In order to achieve the success you seek within the civilian working world, you need to create a personally unique and specific leadership development plan that ensures future growth.

Self assessment is the first step towards creating your personal leadership development plan.  Have an integrity-based internal dialogue about yourself.  Then write down what you perceive to be your strengths and your weaknesses.  In doing so, focus on past situations within your military career, in which you have lead successfully and in which you have failed. 

Once you have conducted an honest self-assessment, you must also seek outside information as to your current leadership abilities.  Ask people you have served with to honestly evaluate your strengths and weakness.  If practical, have these individuals offer examples of your past failures and suggestions for improvement. 

Now that you are aware of the current level of your leadership skills, you can begin to roadmap your future development plan.  First off, applaud yourself on the areas that you’ve identified as strengths.  Your commitment to leadership within your military career has allowed you to have these successes.  Then focus on the areas you have identified as weaknesses.  These are the greatest opportunities where you can grow personally and professionally in the new professional roles you seek to fill.  Improve upon your weaknesses through actions that can be a part of your leadership development plan as you transition. 

  • Seek Out Opportunities for Professional Development.  Once you understand what your personal weaknesses are, you can seek specific training to address your problem areas – especially if your areas of weakness directly impact your success within your new civilian career.  Professional development training is a great tool that you can use to strengthen any area of weakness that you have identified. 
  • Find a Mentor.  The instruction and feedback from a mentor can be an invaluable resource on your path to developing your leadership skills.  Once you have established your list of weaknesses, ask yourself, “Who possesses and effectively demonstrates those skills upon which I need to improve?”  A mentor can be a professional contact, either within or outside of your workplace, or a personal contact.  You can even select several mentors, each who possess a different skill upon which you desire to improve. 
  • Remain Flexible. It is important to remain flexible enough to adjust your leadership plan as your progress on the path to becoming a better leader – especially since you are now seeking to lead civilians, not the fellow Marines, Soldiers, Sailors or Airmen that you are used to.  Along your journey, you are going to improve on your current weaknesses and likely discover new ones.  When new weaknesses are discovered, it is important to revise your plan to account for this change.  And don’t get discouraged.  Leadership development takes time.
  • Practice your skills daily.  Leadership skills are perishable skills.  If you do not practice leadership skills daily then you will lose them.  Seek out daily opportunities to improve upon the personal weaknesses you have identified. 

Congratulations on your career transition and your continued efforts to improve your leadership skills.  Create your personal development plan today and continue your journey. 

Are you a woman seeking to take her leadership skill set to the next level?  Attend Lead Star’s Leadership Boot Camp for Women and learn what it takes to take your career to the next level.  Visit the Lead Star website for more information.

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