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5 Tough Questions to Ask Yourself to Become a Better Leader

Are you spending enough time and money on your leadership development? These five questions can help you decide.

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BY Joe Galvin - 14 Apr 2018

5 Tough Questions to Ask Yourself to Become a Better Leader

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

To be effective in today's rapidly evolving business world, leadership development is a critical investment for us to make. As leaders, we need to stay on top of marketplace changes -- and have the traits, skills and agility to adapt to those changes -- to remain competitive.

My company, Vistage, recently conducted research showing that CEOs from small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are focused on decisions and investments related to business optimization. To fully capitalize on these investments, a CEO also needs to make leadership development a priority.

In the Q4 2017 Vistage CEO Confidence Index survey, which captured data from 1,377 SMB CEOs, leadership development was only ranked fifth in planned investments for 2018. That's after investments in talent, infrastructure, technology and customer growth.

If, like our survey participants, you're a CEO who might prioritize business optimization efforts over your own leadership development, here are the top five questions you need to ask yourself:

1. Are you developing your skills across a broad range of functional areas?

CEOs are at the center of business decisions that cross multiple functions -- from IT and finance to marketing and sales to operations and management. Staying at the forefront of each of these disciplines is an enormous task, which is why leaders must constantly find small ways to broaden their capabilities in diverse areas.

Consider training opportunities that give you access to the latest insights about issues such as building a strong culture, making strategic investments, executing on a strategy and communicating effectively with teams.

2. Do you meet the criteria of a "good leader" or a "great leader?"

Good leaders tend to focus on others before themselves. Great leaders recognize they must continue to work on their own development while also developing the capabilities of their teams. This creates alignment and focus among departments and instills a culture of excellence across the entire organization.

3. Can you effectively execute your strategic vision?

Leadership is the art of execution. It's the art of getting things done. In other words, leadership isn't just about setting a direction or vision for a business, it's about executing on that vision. Execution is how a leader translates their vision into a method for managing talent, connecting with customers, optimizing operations and managing the financials that calibrate the business.

4. What are your priority areas as a leader?

High-performing CEOs tend to focus on five areas in particular:

  • Strategic planning
  • Organizational culture and values
  • Communication and alignment
  • Mission, vision and purpose
  • Innovation

If this list doesn't align with your own priorities, ask what you're substituting for these areas. You might need to make some adjustments.

5. Do you have the competencies to identify and address pressing workplace issues?

Today's CEOs need to be equipped to manage a variety of difficult issues such as sexual misconduct in the workplace, diversity and inclusion practices and sustainability policies. Very few leaders can do this effectively without the right leadership development.

Focus on developing skills that will improve, for example, how you evaluate workplace policies for social events, reduce your environmental footprint, recruit a more diverse workforce or establish a culture of transparency. This will make your organization stronger, and it'll make you a better CEO.

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