LEADING SELF: Personal Development

An important part of self-management is taking responsibility for one’s own learning experiences to help develop the skills to lead others. Professional development does not consist simply of attending discrete events such as workshops and seminars. Rather, it also should be a set of ongoing activities.


What is a personal development plan?

Alice came to a fork in the road. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire Cat. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the Cat, “It doesn’t matter.”- Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland


Personal development planning is a structured framework you can use to:

  • become aware of skills you have

  • identify and develop skills you need

  • work out what you want to achieve and how to achieve it

Personal development plans focus on learning outcomes and help us set a direction and focus our efforts.


The first step in creating a personal development plan is crafting your personal vision.

When you create a vision you are designing your life, privately and professionally. Having a vision helps you make decisions. It helps you say yes when an opportunity fitting your vision arrives and it helps you to say no, when the offer does not bring you closer to your vision. This is not about being an egoist and only doing what suits you. This is about designing the life you want to live and making the right choices for you.


If you don’t have a vision you also don’t know where you are going, privately or professionally. You might end up somewhere where you don’t want to be. This is like going on a road trip without access to a map. Yes, it can be fun, but in the end, you will be lost and might not find your way back home. People without a vision can live a happy life, no doubt, but they could become even happier living a life with a vision.


Do you want to leave it up to someone else’s vision how your life develops, or do you want to actively decide what is going to happen in your life? It is your choice.


Identify your personal values

Values are part of the support network behind a powerful vision statement. These are the mechanisms to help steer your moral compass directly toward your vision. In other words, personal values are a moral code to keep you accountable to yourself. They are moral characteristics you consider important, imperative, and that are part of who you are – or who you want to be.


Identify your passions

Reflect upon the things you do with ease, enjoyment, and fulfilment. Your passion is almost always tied to having some type of meaningful and positive impact on others.


Identify your purpose

Your purpose — or your raison d’être — is a key element of your vision and the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing with your life. Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction, and create meaning. For some people, purpose is connected to vocation—meaningful, satisfying work. For others, their purpose lies in their responsibilities to their family or friends.


Our WHY is the purpose, the cause, or the belief that drives us.

  • WHY did you get out of bed this morning?

  • And WHY should anyone care?

Your WHY is what sets you apart from everyone else. It’s your purpose. It’s what inspires you to take action. WHY is grounded in the tenets of the biology of human decision making – as illustrated in the “Golden Circle” below originally developed by Simon Sinek.


The Golden Circle

The outer section of the Golden Circle—the WHAT—corresponds to the outer section of the brain—the neocortex. This is the part of the brain responsible for rational and analytical thought. This part of the brain helps us understand facts and figures, features and benefits. The neocortex is also responsible for language.

The middle two sections of the Golden Circle—the WHY and HOW—correspond to the middle section of the brain, the limbic system. This is the part of the brain responsible for all our behavior and decision making. It’s also responsible for all our feelings, like trust and loyalty. But unlike the neocortex, the limbic system has no capacity for language. Answering the WHY has the capacity to direct our behavior and associate strong feelings to it. So feeling passionate about work or at home requires us to know our WHY.

Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best.


Examples of personal purpose statements include:

”My purpose is to serve others as a visionary leader and apply ethical principles in management to make a significant difference in the world.”


“My purpose is to build a bridge of understanding and be a tower of integrity to others as a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur.”


Consider the following suggestions as you compose your own personal purpose statement:

  • How do I want to make a difference in the world?

  • How do I want to be remembered?

  • What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind?

Use your answer to this question to guide your writing:

  • WHY do I do what I do?


Your vision statement

Your vision is your most important dream or mental picture. It can also be a set of dreams and long-term goals. A vision defines the optimal desired future state. It tells of what you would like to achieve over a longer time. But why should you have a vision? Every individual or organization should have a vision for two reasons:

  • First, a vision inspires you and gives you energy. It guides and eventually gives all of your efforts a sense of meaning. It connects you with your purpose (your “why”), your values and your passion and roots you. Your vision unlocks your deepest motivations.

  • Second, it provides guidance in a world of choices. It enables you to focus on what to do (and not do).

Examples of vision statements:

  1. ”To be the person my children look to with pride when they say, “This is my dad.” To be the one my children come to for love, comfort, and understanding. To be the friend known as caring and always willing to listen empathetically to their concerns.

  2. “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” (Oprah Winfrey).

  3. “To be known for using my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.” (Amanda Steinberg).

  4. To become a well-known and respected leader in the food industry, revitalizing the ways food is produced and marketed to make healthier products to help people live better lives.

  5. To earn my doctorate degree and become the kind of teacher that changes the lives of students for the better, educating them not only about English but about the joys and meaning of life.

  6. “To have fun in [my] journey through life and learn from [my] mistakes.” (Richard Branson).

....and now to creating your personal development plan

Consider following these four steps to enhance yourself as a person and a leader:

  1. Competencies: Identify competencies or skills that you want to build or improve upon. These are the basis of the development plan and help focus your effort on what you want to achieve.

  2. Learning goal: Identify a learning goal for each competency or skill that you want to build. These are the basis of the development plan and help focus your effort on what you want to achieve.

  3. Find learning resources: Do research to find relevant subject-matter resources including useful articles, websites, books, courses, conferences or training. Use these as the basis of a self-paced learning program for which you allocate a set amount of time each week.

  4. Match learning goals to organizational goals: Ideally, your learning goals will help you support the organization’s mission and vision as well as develop your leadership skills. Mapping them to your performance goals is one way to do this. One way to think about learning goals is in terms of leadership competencies. These are the set of abilities that enable you to help your team meet its goals, improve its performance, and adapt to change.


With your own personal development plan you now have a tool to help you set a clearer direction and focus for your efforts. Good luck.



Source and inspiration: University of Colorado and Harvard University


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