NextGen Know-How: Why Great Leaders Invest in Themselves

young Asian businesswoman reading by office window
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

4 minutes

The most successful leaders understand that they’re never done learning.

I just returned from five days at the National Speakers Association conference in Denver, Colorado, where I had the opportunity to learn from the best speakers in the world about how they grow their businesses and stay relevant. These sessions were invaluable—hearing what worked, what didn’t and the different approaches speakers take in working with clients and making an impact. I took copious notes, which sparked many ideas I hadn’t thought of before. 

This conference is one of several professional development sessions I attend each year to develop myself as a professional and business owner. In fact, every year I increase the amount of money I allocate for professional development. I have seen a direct connection between my personal and business growth and the amount I invest in myself. 

Most of us didn’t receive any management training before—or even after—we were promoted to a leadership role. Most professional jobs—a chef, a pilot, a lawyer, a doctor or even your local barista—require some kind of training or certification. Leadership is the exception, but this is a disservice to the individual, their employees and the organization overall. We need to invest in our managers and executives to teach them modern leadership skills that bring out the best in employees and build exceptional organizational cultures.

The best leaders proactively seek out professional development and never stop investing in themselves—and the level of leadership doesn’t matter. The most successful CEOs, executives, directors, managers and supervisors never think they have learned all they need to know. Smart leaders understand that they are never done learning; it is a lifelong process that never ends. I am amazed at how many executives feel they don’t need professional development once they have attained an executive role. The work doesn’t end when you become a leader. In fact, it’s just beginning. There is always more to learn.

Below are some ways to invest in yourself.

Read and listen.

Continually read books and articles that help you develop your leadership skills and spark new ideas. Listen to podcasts. There are so many powerful podcasts that interview leadership influencers. I listen while I’m in the car, so my commute becomes a learning opportunity. 

Here are a few of my favorite leadership books:

  • The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
  • The 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell
  • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  • Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman
  • Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

Here are a few of my favorite podcasts:

And here are some useful magazines:

Attend conferences inside and outside your industry.

Regularly attending conferences gets you out of the office (an environment of distractions and meetings) and into a space of learning, innovation and growth. I am always amazed at how energized I feel after attending a conference where I learn about better ways of doing things and have the space to think differently. Conferences in your industry or functional area are helpful to build skills and educate yourself on trends, and conferences outside your industry can bring fresh perspectives and new ideas.

Attend local events.

Associations like CUES Councils often have one day events and conferences for professional development and networking. Don’t wait to be asked to attend. Take charge of your own development. Research and ask your manager to attend an event. Another great professional development option in the credit union industry is the Global Women’s Leadership Network. There are Sister Societies all over the world that offer fantastic low-cost and sometimes no-cost professional development opportunities. 

Find a mentor or coach.

You don’t have to leave the office to develop yourself as a leader or professional. Find a leader in your credit union whom you respect and can learn from and approach them about forming a more formal mentoring relationship. Be prepared to outline how you would like to use your time together and have specific questions ready. Take ownership of this relationship and don’t leave the work for the mentor/coach. Sometimes these relationships form naturally, so don’t hesitate to utilize the expertise, experience and coaching of the leaders in your credit union. 

Great leaders are always evolving. In order to successfully fulfill the responsibility of leadership, we need to consciously develop ourselves so we can serve others.

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of Envision Excellence LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or

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