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Your Personal PhD in Leadership

March 12, 2021

Clients say the most brilliant things. As an executive coaching client and I reviewed the impacts of the progress he’s made, he leaned into his webcam and said, “Tracy, I feel like I’m getting a personal PhD in leadership.”

His metaphor summarized a crucial, accessible strength: We can all get a personal PhD in leadership.

personal PhD in leadership

Our studies started at an early age. We’ve been registering the impacts of different leadership approaches at home, in our communities, on teams, in classrooms and over the course of successive jobs.

We’ve been schooled by leaders we don’t want to emulate, as well as those we do.

We can accelerate our ongoing development by making these connections consciously and consistently. Coaching is one form of purposeful and personalized leadership development, woven into the fabric of a busy day. Whether you’re working with a coach or not, you can make a habit of reflecting upon and refining leadership practices that up your game.

A recent McKinsey article identified several practices that support this kind of intentional learning:

  • Recognizing the learning opportunities in everyday experiences.
  • Seeking new experiences and ideas.
  • Protecting time for intentional learning.
  • Anchoring our learning with clear, meaningful leadership goals.
  • Practicing deliberately, with a motivating amount of stretch.
  • Responding to challenges with a growth mindset.
  • Proactively asking for feedback.
  • Reflecting regularly and documenting our insights so we can revisit them.

I would add one other catalytic practice: share what you’re learning. Great leaders develop other leaders.

As you go about your daily work, how are you finding opportunities to intentionally and continuously learn more about your leadership?

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