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Learning While Leading

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The problem is that senior leaders get preoccupied taking care of teams and the day-to-day. They easily neglect investing in their own leadership development. But if you want to get ahead and stay ahead in today’s challenging and changing global marketplace, you need to keep learning while leading.

Leaders who invest in leadership development have better ideas and better execution of those ideas, as well as developing people better. That’s critical when you consider that today’s leaders must be ready to expect the unexpected, drive innovation, collaborate on all levels and take action.
But who can find time to retreat from the office for strategic learning? The answer is, you have to make time. As senior executives, making time for leadership development is actually as easy as prioritizing and blocking it out on your calendar — it’s always up to You.
Consider this holiday season, an annual occasion when we take time out to renew focus on many of life’s aspects that matter most. Now is the perfect opportunity to give yourself the gift of time to strengthen your leadership abilities. Here are three simple strategies:
Begin with Awareness
Acknowledging the importance of selfinvestment opens your mind to recognising when and where to find it. Exit surveys at PMA events show industry executives acquire from many places. They cite internal company programmes, publications, associations, academic institutes, consultants and even networking as resources. Look for lessons in leadership all around you.
Ask Colleagues
You’re never too senior in rank to seek advice. Ask other industry executives you admire for leadership development recommendations. Many fi rst-time attendees to the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent’s Leadership Symposium have said they attended because a colleague made the suggestion. If granting yourself permission to make time for leadership development gives you a guilt trip, perhaps you’ll feel better if the suggestion comes from a peer.
Spin Networking
Why not make networking events double as leadership enhancement? You could use leadership conversations as ice breakers (“Hi! Great to meet you. I’ve always admired your company’s innovation. How do you keep your team motivated to produce such cutting-edge ideas?”).
You could also use discussions about current issues to discover how others apply leadership to find solutions. You could even view networking events as breakout sessions to:
• Stretch your thinking with broader perspectives from people in top positions from throughout the supply Chain.
• Discuss issues similar to your own to create an idea exchange.
• Gain greater comprehension of industry topics to translate knowledge into solutions relevant to your operation.
The point is that today’s leaders are steering their businesses through an era of major disruptive change, in which there is no new normal. Retail’s senior leaders must keep pace. The importance of grooming your workforce’s next generation receives much attention, but what doesn’t surface frequently is the importance of honing senior executives’ leadership skills.
The decisions you make today will determine how and whether your retail operation will be in business decades from now. Never forget that lifelong learning is the key to ongoing success.