When Leadership and Personal Development Connect

Leadership and personal development share many of the same skills, those all too important ‘soft’ skills that are required for good leadership and gained through personal growth. These so-called soft skills are those that determine how you relate to others and respond to circumstances. It’s easy to think of leadership as being essentially management yet it’s so much more for it is simply not enough to organize and orchestrate people and projects; effective leadership is achieved by working alongside, with, and for others. Our own development is a process of learning those very skills that characterize dynamic leaders – such as communication, coping, and social skills.


“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur.”Nelson Mandela


The phrase ‘soft skills’ implies that there are ‘hard’ skills as well and those are the skill-sets associated with various jobs and tasks. These can be learned on the job, so to speak, as there are always specific skills needed to complete particular tasks – the skill-sets that qualify you for certain jobs or roles. Such job- or role-related expertise is learned through training whereas interpersonal skills are the key to success and are certainly what create effective leaders. Personal growth is a lifelong journey and is often measured in large changes yet it actually transpires through small improvements, which is why ongoing growth requires staying open to development opportunities.


“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”Chinese proverb


Leadership also requires staying open, not only to opportunities but our own fallibility. This is how personal growth parallels and informs leadership development: Neither is possible unless the ego is set aside. We must constantly assess and reassess our skill-levels and overall goals to make progress on either front, then remain open to needed changes and improvements. For example, perhaps the most important communication skill is listening. The ability to listen is a result of personal growth and the willingness to listen is a leadership skill which exemplifies how the two pursuits are intertwined. Like life and happiness, leadership is a journey – not a destination.


“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”Arthur Ashe


Manuel London, in his book on Leadership Development, suggests that three psychological processes are the underpinnings of leadership: self-insight, self-regulation, and self-identity. Self-insight is the key to understanding others for we must first be able to understand our own motivations and actions. Self-regulation, or self-control, is the ability to set aside our impulses or knee-jerk reactions in support of longer-term goals. Self-identity is at the heart of both journeys; no, make that all, life and happiness become vicious cycles without a strong identity and truth to self. One’s identity is connected to recognizing our potential which is the most important thing we can see in others as a leader.

-California Center for Economic Initiatives works at the grassroots levels to support leaders by building an infrastructure where budding leaders can access information and resource on growing their community projects.

-Article Written By Dorian Dorey

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  1. Pingback: Leadership Requires Working Smarter – California Center for Economic Initiatives

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