Cultivating Effective Leadership Through Personal Development


It’s easy for leaders to get caught in the relentless cycle of task-oriented thinking, especially when deadlines loom and decisions carry significant weight. However, amidst the demands of overseeing teams, projects and strategies, the ideas of self-reflection and personal development often get overlooked. The role of a manager is not just about steering the ship, but also about continuously honing one’s skills and self-awareness.

Below, 20 Forbes Human Resources Council members share ways to practice self-reflection and personal growth to foster effective leadership and long-term success.

1. Define Your Personal Values

Recently I have taken on a project to proactively define my personal values to help me find even greater fulfillment and guide how I choose to spend my time on personal and professional projects. My network was phenomenal in recommending books and exercises to guide me through this journey. I have also heard from a lot of my connections that they’re inspired to do the same exercise themselves. – Sanja Licina, QuestionPro

2. Ask Self-Reflection Questions

We can improve and move forward when we reflect and plan ahead. Sit down in a non-work environment with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and answer the following questions about your last half year to year. What is your biggest achievement? Biggest failure? Biggest motivation? Biggest demotivation? What’s your growth aspiration for the future? What value are you providing in your current role? – Ilona Bernotaite, Kilo Health

3. Reflect Daily On Yesterday

Managers make critical decisions every day that impact people, clients, revenue, compliance and more. These decisions are at times spur of the moment and add a level of risk and stress. I have found that making time every morning without a phone is a good way to reflect on yesterday and improve a bit every day. It is essential to form personal development as a daily habit, rather than an event. – Akhilesh Nair, Talent Group Partners

4. Be Aware Of Your Behavior

According to my research, statistics show that while many managers have high internal awareness, only 10 to 15% of employees do. Self-reflection and intentional personal development increase our awareness about how our behaviors affect or motivate others and allow us to do the work to improve communication connection with our teams, identify soft skills needed, and in turn, become better, well-rounded leaders. – Tiersa Smith-Hall, Impactful Imprints, Training & Consulting

5. Plan Time To Learn Quarterly

Managers experience a variety of personalities, work styles and tough situations. Sometimes we’re proud of how we show up, other times we wish we’d done better. Planning time quarterly to learn and reflect is key. I’ve done this alone, with a peer or manager and even created space during business reviews. Getting out of the day-to-day helps us gain perspective and practice new approaches. – Mikaela Kiner, Reverb

Forbes Human Resources Council is an invitation-only organization for HR executives across all industries. Do I qualify?

6. Uncover Your Strengths And Weaknesses

Taking time for self-reflection is crucial for managers’ personal growth. It helps us uncover strengths, weaknesses and areas to improve. By seeking feedback, staying open to learning and giving ourselves space to think, we become better leaders. Investing in our own development not only benefits us but also inspires and empowers our teams—leading to greater success. – Kshitij Jain, Joveo

7. Create Small Leadership Circles

Leaders are not robots, and it is mandatory to recognize and embrace being human. The onus of responsibility is often in the hands of leaders. Hence leaders must embrace a pathway of consistent learning and create space for pausing, reflecting, evaluating, unlearning and relearning. Create small intimate leadership circles where leaders can share, be vulnerable and embrace learning. – Chandran Fernando, Matrix360 Inc.

8. Embrace Mistakes And Lead By Example

No one is perfect, including leaders. Being a living example of this teaches your team that vulnerability is good and that this is a safe place to learn and grow. If your team sees you make mistakes, work through them and grow from them, they will follow suit. This is an authentic pillar of leading by example. – Jenna Hinrichsen, Advanced RPO

9. Maintain Professional Relationships And Associations

Professional relationships are made and enhanced by attending industry events, participating in online communities and joining professional associations. Relationships also evolve through having informal interactions, sharing ideas and resources and collaborating on projects. Leaders are measured by results—it is our ability to reflect on, and deepen, our relationships that make results achievable. – MJ Vigil, DispatchHealth

10. Listen And Learn About Your Surroundings

To be effective, leaders must first listen and learn, and only then can they lead. Personal development and self-reflection are critical moments to listen and learn about yourself, your team, and the world around you. Without that context, your leadership will fall flat and never reach its full potential. – Christopher Courneen, M S International, Inc. (MSI)

11. Grow And Shape Your Brand

How you show up as a leader impacts your personal brand or reputation, among other things. It’s essential to check in with yourself and examine how you want to show up and what legacy you want to leave, and then determine whether your daily actions and people’s experiences with you are aligned with your intent. Your brand is what people say it is, so it’s important to reflect and then course correct. – Nicole Fernandes, Blu Ivy Group

12. Nurture Your Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a central theme. Through self-awareness, managers can adapt, grow and make informed decisions. Journaling, seeking feedback and reading are effective methods for nurturing self-awareness. These practices have helped me refine my approach, enhance team dynamics and achieve desired outcomes, making self-awareness a cornerstone of effective managerial growth. – Joseph Soares, IBPROM Corp.

13. Hold Yourself Accountable

As a manager, you are there to provide guidance to your employees but also to make sure that you are evolving and learning. The more you are working on your own development the better you will be at helping your employees. I reflect often on what I am doing and how I am doing it. Could I do better? If so, then I will make changes. I hold myself and my team accountable for the same things. – Heather Smith, Flimp Communications

14. Prioritize Your Own Growth

As in any relationship, taking care of oneself is requisite to taking care of others. Leaders who prioritize their own growth and focus on personal mental, physical, social and emotional well-being perpetuate a people-first culture and advance the employee experience. These leaders place themselves in a healthy mind- and head space modeling behaviors that their colleagues and teams seek to follow. – Laci Loew, XpertHR (a division of LexisNexis Risk Solutions)

15. Avoid Falling Into The Action Trap

We believe many employees and leaders fall into the action trap. This idea is that you focus on actions in order to get results. That may seem logical but great leaders focus on mindsets and beliefs that lead to employees taking proactive action. Otherwise, you can enter into the dangerous world of micromanagement. Time for self-reflection and personal development gets you out of the action trap. – Jessica Kriegel, Culture Partners

16. Embrace Quiet, Distraction-Free Time

Most of us get caught up with heavy workloads and full schedules and fail to realize that taking time away to plan and reflect will result in better decisions and more focused communications with the team. Personally, I’ve learned to embrace quiet, distraction-free time where I can let my mind calm and clear. – Lisa Shuster, iHire

17. Develop Better Social- And Self-Awareness

It allows us to understand our subconscious better, which allows us to understand our underlying motives and have more social- and self-awareness. As leaders, these are qualities that are essential. Personal development is important for high-quality leadership. Be open-minded to new ways of learning such as listening to keynotes and podcasts, reading articles and case studies, watching webinars and taking courses. – Kimika Banfield, Arootah

18. Listen To The Experiences Of Others

If we exist in our thought processes long enough, it’s easy to believe that others think the same way we do. My greatest form of self-reflection and personal development has come from listening to the experiences of others through one-on-ones, calls and focus groups. It’s evolved my platform and product, and it’s made me a more considerate manager and leader. – Ursula Mead, InHerSight

19. Change Internally For External Growth

True leaders are life-long learners. To recharge and skill build, time away to grow is essential, especially in today’s workplace with new demands and changing work norms. For me, meditation, reading consistently and con-Ed have been critical. I attended a coaching certification that was a game changer. I change internally and that changes the external work environment for the better. – Jess Elmquist, Phenom

20. Practice Mindfulness With Meditation Or Yoga

Even as a seasoned manager, reflecting on one’s own strengths and weaknesses provides space for continued personal development and enhancement of key skills like adaptability, emotional intelligence and leadership. Taking the time to be self-aware, through mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga, has helped me significantly in determining what areas I can improve on within my career. – Laura Spawn, Virtual Vocations, Inc.


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