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  • Writer's pictureacoachsdiary

Where Do I Begin? (Leadership Development 101)

The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

- Lao Tzu

One of the most common questions I get from emerging leaders is, “Where do I begin? Who do you study, what books do you read, and what podcasts do you listen to?”

Becoming a leader is a process that takes time, energy, and investment.

To me, the hardest part about becoming a leader is truly identifying and defining what it means to be a leader, and the hardest part about starting your leadership journey or creating a leadership development plan is identifying where to start.

If you ask a room of 25 leaders to define leadership, you might get 25 different answers, so finding a good starting place can be a tricky and overwhelming task.

In their book The Leadership Challenge, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner wrote that they have asked over 75,000 people around the world over the last 30 years, “What values (personal traits or characteristics) do you look for and admire in a leader?”

They distribute a list of 20 characteristics and ask respondents to select the seven qualities that they “most look for and admire in a leader, someone whose direction they would willingly follow.”

Although all characteristics receive some votes, meaning each characteristic is important to someone, what is striking is that only four have continuously received over 50% of the votes: honesty, competence, inspiring, and forward-looking.

Below is a list and percentage of the characteristics that were chosen:

This list is a solid place to start your leadership journey. But then what? Where do we go from there?


Howard Behar was the president of Starbucks Coffee Company International and wrote It's Not About The Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks. He started working at Starbucks in 1989 when the company had just begun to expand outside the American Northwest region, and as the vice president of sales and operations, he helped grow the retail business from 28 stores to more than 400 by the time he was named president in 1995.

In an interview with Jon Gordon, Howard was asked, “What is your best piece of advice?”

His response was simple but meaningful and compelling:

“On the journey of life, if you don't know where you are going, any path will get you there.

Figure out what your 8-10 core values are. These are the things that really, really matter to you. There can be 50 other words that describe things about you, but these are the core values that, come hell or high water, will always be who you are.

You take those core values and you write them down. You have to write them down. If you don't write them down, then they are just wishes, hopes, and dreams.”

So, my answer to the question, “Where do I begin?” is to start with identifying and defining what really matters to you and go from there. Start with your core values.

In the link below, there is a printable PDF of this post that you can use to write out the 5 core values that really matter to you and that will guide your leadership journey. Then define your core values by writing a sentence or two about how your core values turn into actions or decisions.

Finally, work on growing in these areas. Leadership is a journey, not a destination. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a process, not an outcome.

Ex.  Growth Mindset -  Because I have grit and a growth mindset, I have the ability to learn how to do hard things.

Additional resources:

Click here for a printable PDF of this post: Where Do I Begin?


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