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Executive Leadership Coaching

3 minute read

The 3 Cs of Personal Leadership Development

Jul 12, 2018

Written by: Shawn Sweeney

We all know to be great leaders we need to be regularly investing in our learning and growth. Unfortunately, we rarely take the time to invest in our own leadership development, instead focusing on the leadership development of our team.

I try to remind myself of the safety briefing we all hear every time we board a flight: “Place your own mask on before helping those around you.” That’s great advice—not just for air travel, but for learning and development as well. We must make an investment in ourselves to be best positioned to help those around us.

Just like doing one exercise at the gym over and over won’t lead to well-rounded fitness, focusing on only one approach to your personal leadership development and growth can leave you unbalanced. I’ve found my personal leadership development is most impactful when I’m leveraging three different, but complementary approaches to development: Content, Community, and Coaching.


How many books are you reading every year? The average CEO reads about 60 books every year. It makes sense to learn from the experiences—wins and losses—of others. Life’s too short to figure it all out first hand. I’ll confess it’s not easy to find the time, but I strive to make reading a priority and try to knock out a book every week or so.

If reading isn’t your thing, there are a host of options out there that can serve the same purpose. Podcasts. Blogs. Audiobooks. “I don’t like to read” or “I don’t have time to read” just aren’t valid excuses anymore.

I also find it helpful to vary the content I read. Don’t just read traditional business or leadership development books. Biographies and history books, for example, can teach you valuable leadership lessons. I’m currently reading “Team of Rivals” by historian Doris Kerns Goodwin, about President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. If you need a primer and graduate-level course on conflict resolution and patient leadership, this is it.


It’s said we are the average of the five people we hang out with regularly. Who are you spending your time with? Are they people you can learn from? Are they people you can share challenges and ideas with?

Having a group of peers you regularly connect with is game-changing for leadership development. I meet with a group of six business owners every month. We share our challenges and get the benefits of the experience and ideas of the rest of the group. It’s like having your own Board of Advisors. It’s also reassuring to hear that everyone faces similar struggles. You quickly realize your situation isn’t all that unique—which is another reason reading is an invaluable tool!

Want to really challenge yourself? Answer this question: Who are the five people you hang out with regularly who are more successful than you? Imagine what you could be learning if you could easily answer that question.


Content and Community are important, but they still lack the opportunity for direct and specific feedback. That’s where Coaching comes in. We all benefit when we have someone who can challenge us—and encourage us. 

The other advantage? A coach is your accountability partner. There may be things you want to work on that you’re not comfortable sharing with your boss. In that situation, a coach can keep you accountable in ways that would be tough to replicate without that type of personal support.

Here’s my pro tip on coaches: Don’t limit yourself to just one coach. I currently have two. One focuses more on my personal and leadership development. The other provides me with business strategy coaching. Just like professional athletes have multiple coaches for different purposes, so can you!

Action Plan

Like the idea of the 3 Cs, but feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. Start small and commit to moving forward with your personal leadership development by taking these three simple steps:

  1. Pick up a new book or podcast this week—or, better yet, today!
  2. Assess your current community, and decide if you need to form a new one.
  3. Get a coach!

I recently heard Donald Miller, Founder and CEO of StoryBrand, speak at a conference. One of his comments really hit home for me about why personal leadership development matters. He said: “I’m not the CEO my organization will need a year from now. But I intend to be by the time we get there.”

What is your team going to need from you a year from now? Will you be ready?