During a career that has spanned more than 40 years, I have seen firsthand how my skills and leadership qualities have shifted and changed. Sometimes the shifts have been dramatic, and at other times more subtle. I have also seen how people will experience continual change throughout their careers. To succeed, you must be fluid and adaptive.
One particular area that has fascinated me is studying how leaders evolve. As I reflect on my own experiences and those of others, I believe there are certain goals to aim for during key periods in your life, in order to sharpen your leadership skills.
25-30 years old
Early on your career, consider yourself an apprentice. Focus on defining your career path and your goals for personal and professional growth. Bear in mind that where you start sets the foundation for where you will go. You may change “jobs” and even “careers” many times along the way, but your mindset for achievement should always be a fundamental constant.
As you gain in your skills and experience, be strategic in what you work on and with whom you develop relationships. Develop the habit early on of being generous in helping others who follow in your footsteps. Become philanthropic – this a quality you can strengthen as you grow in your career.
30-40 years old
In your 30s, it’s your time to evolve and refine your individual style. Now is the time to dream big and begin to aspire to your highest ideals for achievement. Become an expert in your field, someone who is seen as a go-to person. Refine personal mastery over your craft. Begin to develop your personal brand – how you want others to see you. Continue to focus on being relevant and making meaningful contributions in your work, community and personal life.
40 – 50 years old
By age 40, your leadership style should be more concrete, along with your vision for success. With nearly two decades of experience under your belt, you now have the opportunity to assimilate “lessons learned” with continual learning and guidance from both mentors and well as those you mentor. Put these life lessons to good use.
Start to focus on other things besides just work. Be bold and take some risks. Compete with yourself, not others.
50 – 60 years old
As a senior leader, shift your focus to the growth and development of others. Take the time to be a mentor and give back to your profession. Be generous with others who look up to you for advice.
60+ years old
Use this time wisely to continue focusing on developing the team who will follow you. Continue to give back – especially to your community. You are always able to shape your personal brand and leave a lasting, positive impact!
Author’s Note: This is the third of a 4-part series on leadership. Click here for the first in the series, Expanding The Mental Model for Management: More Women In The Boardroom and the second, What Distinguishes Contemporary Women Leaders?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Debra Plousha Moore serves as Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President at Carolinas HealthCare System. She is a 2014 recipient of the Leadership Excellence Award from the National Diversity Council and was recognized with the Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Excellence Award by the United Negro College Fund in 2012. She frequently speaks and writes about issues related to women in leadership.