My boss came to me today and said I am being promoted. We spent some time talking in her office and as we finished, she asked: “How do you define your leadership and what are your plans for continuing to develop as a leader.” I was surprised by the question and just as surprised that I did not have a solid answer. I kind of floundered.

Can you clearly state how you define leadership, your style, and how you are developing? Most folks cannot. Here is an exercise to help you bring clarity to your answer.

One key point to remember is leadership is very personal, it is an art and it is an expression of you. Now let’s get started.

Paint this picture: One year from today an employee you lead is giving an assessment about you to a colleague that starts like this: He/She is a great leader to work for because:

Now make three statements about you, the perfect leader one year from today:

You just created the vision you have for your leadership. On a scale of 1-10 it is a 10.

How does that feel?

But how do you get there? Let me help you. We are going to start with your foundation.

Answer a simple question for three scenarios and remember or jot down the answers:
Pick a great professional achievement of yours in the recent past. Put yourself in that setting, who is around you, the emotions, etc.: What was personally most important to you about that event?

Pick a time of great professional conflict. Put yourself in that setting. Who is around you, your emotions, feel that uncomfortable tenseness: What was personally most important to you about the event?

Last one. Think of the perfect day at work. You drive up and go into the building, the day goes perfectly, and when you leave that day you say to yourself: that is the way things should be every day. What is personally most important to you about a day like this?

Look at those words and run them through your head – These words most likely represent your professional values. They are the elements of your being that provide your motivation. When you get those values fulfilled you are happy and on a good path. They are your foundation.

Next step: Take those three elements you started with describing your leadership as a ten. Give yourself a score of one to ten on each one. Where are you today in relation to the vision you created? What is the difference between your number and the ten?

You just described the gap between current leadership self and where you ultimately want to be.

How will you get there?

Choose one of the three elements and set a goal. For example: I want to be a better public speaker, particularly when speaking to the company leaders – make it a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goal. I want to be able to give a presentation about my new department to the c-suite in the next six months with total confidence.

Great goal, now take an action to make some incremental progress. Example: I am going to join Toastmasters and give one evaluated speech a month.

What did you just do? You began building the path to solidifying your leadership and your style.

Let’s bring it all together:
You set your vision, determined your values (what motivates you), assessed your starting point, set a goal, and took on an action to make progress towards your vision. You started down the path with the plan for your development.

As the year progresses your path will be made up of many goals and actions, your personal assessment will become more detailed, your vision will become clearer, and you will understand and embrace your values. You will learn a lot about yourself.

Reflecting on this exercise, what did you just learn about yourself? Go back to the original question: “How do you define your leadership and what are your plans for continuing to develop as a leader.”

My guess is, you are in a much better position to answer that question.