Disciplined leaders believe in constant learning. Improving yourself means that you’re willing to do what your peers will not do. Namely, I advocate for reading as much quality literature as you can. Here, I’ll dive into the question, what are the benefits of professional development?
Also, we can attend conferences, seminars, set up lunch appointments with mentors, chat in the hallway, and converse with friends or family about our concerns. Unfortunately, mounting priorities provide little space for professional development.
I believe that the bulk of professional development comes in the quiet moments during reflection. That mostly happens within the pages of books, the words of mentors, and lectures by professionals.
Let’s get to the question: Why is professional development important?
You Learn Self-Reflection and Action
I listened to a book that changed my entire perspective on leadership. The book Extreme Ownership by Leif Babin and Jocko Willink presented the idea that leaders must have total accountability for all actions and non-actions within a team.
From then on, I knew that the Army wasn’t going to give me a handout. I had to become responsible for what I did or failed to do because it was my job. If my boss needed something and I was late, then I was required to rectify the situation.
I started doing things differently. I asked leaders, peers, and subordinates for advice on how to take responsibility. When I arrived at meetings, I made sure I prepared myself. If I had an issue in my platoon or staff section, I took care of it and accepted the consequences of my actions or inactions. There were several times I missed deadlines as a platoon leader, and I paid the price for it. However, I have no regrets about the accountability I took in the face of an unfortunate situation.
I often reflected on this idea. Had I not picked up this book, I would have never known this essential idea.
Another book called The Things They Carried by Tim O’Neil had a similar effect on my mind. As I read, I felt the sorrow, anxiety, and dread of the fictional Vietnam War platoon who faced uncertainty and death. Difficult topics like these challenged my current world-view, and it helped me learn to reflect on how Soldiers may react under stressful circumstances.
You Learn How to Teach Others
One of the best benefits of professional development is learning how to teach.
I had an inspired sergeant major talk to me about leadership following a unit conference. With a beer in one hand and a notebook in the other, he broke down leadership for me. He talked about trusting versus verifying, ownership, counseling, and basic soldiering. Discipline as a leader shows that you care about the unit.
He knew all of that because he read, studied, and applied leadership. I’m still in awe of his ability to lead an organization long after he had already left. His impact was insightful because I learned what true leadership was all about. He did that without boasting about his accomplishments.
I would have never known these things had it not been for that sergeant major who took an hour of his time to mentor me in a bar after a leadership conference. I am forever grateful for his advice.
Oftentimes, I’ll find myself in conversations referring to a book I recently read. It feels like I can reach into my mind and share something I didn’t previously know in those moments. It’s an exciting feeling to share what you learned in hopes that your audience will also find it meaningful.
Additionally, leaders must learn to teach. If you don’t learn, you can’t teach. Learning comes from professional development.
Self-Development Expands your Horizons
Are you thinking about being in your job until you retire? Now, it’s rare to see someone in their current positions long-term. Opportunities are abundant when you’re able to see them coming. That doesn’t happen until you make it happen.
Develop a work network even if you’re “at the bottom.” There’s no better way to start than at the beginning of your career or new to a company. Meeting people can assist you in getting to places where you want to be.
Leverage connections when opportunities arise. Volunteer to take on jobs you wouldn’t normally do but aren’t too tricky. These tasks add up, and you’ll be able to call those people down the road for help as well. Inevitably, we’ll all be looking for jobs. Plant seeds for the future by networking. Let them blossom when you need them.
Again, some benefits of professional development come when you put forth effort in your network.
If there’s one thing I want you to know, it’s this: whatever you do, develop yourself. Whatever that looks for you, go and do it. That might mean volunteering for that business seminar, or setting up a lunch appointment, or talking with a boss after-hours.
It also might mean shelling out some cash for audio or hardcover books. The price you pay there is a lifetime of use, and that investment is far better than any coffee you can buy at your favorite coffee shop.
Why do you think professional development is significant? Or is it? What are some ways you develop yourselves? Write them in the comments section down below. Thanks for reading!
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Read a review here.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Neil
Featured image: Ariel Castillo; his website here
Image 1: Photo by Oladimeji
Image 2: Photo by Cottonbro