Leadership is both difficult and rewarding at the same time, and there is no better example of that duality than professional development.

Great leaders are always on the lookout for opportunities for their teams. But what about for themselves? As an influencer, you should be thinking about your own professional development.

It is an important stepping stone in helping you get to the next level. Growing in your own field will not only help you, but it can also advance the organization. This type of improvement is really necessary to show your employees its true value.

Since your team is looking to you for positive signs, what better way than to enlarge your knowledge base? You do not necessarily need to get an advanced degree, rather a certification can go a long way.

So why do leaders put off getting more professional development? One reason is they feel their team members should be the first in line for training. Another is when there is no money in the budget or not enough time. However, these are all excuses, and each can be countered.

Your team members want to know what type of leader you are. Getting some training will show them this is a good way forward. There are plenty of courses that are online, and many can be inexpensive or free depending upon what your human resource department can work out.

Time is everybody's Achilles heel, and for a leader it is no different. See where you can reprioritize your day, and carve out that extra time to do that online course. Talk to your immediate supervisor to see how he/she can help you with delegating some work, so you can concentrate on some professional development.

As a leader, you must set an example. If you are mentoring a team member, he will better appreciate the value of professional development. From your example, your mentee may come to you and ask for your recommendations on various courses that will help him in his career path.

More often than not, to get to the next level you will have to get a degree at the master's level. If you want to be in the corner office, that degree will go a long way in preparation for the day you are ready to apply for that promotion. Not everyone is cut out to have an advanced degree, and that is where certifications are just as viable.

While I was a supervisor in the federal government, I was able to earn my master's degree, and it helped me in getting the promotions I wanted. My team also understood that pursuing this training was important, and it was a way to tell them they had to do this to get ahead.

Gone are the days of just setting at your desk and waiting for someone to leave in order to be the next in line for that promotion. In today's employment climate, professional development is more important than ever. A prospective employer is looking for certain criteria depending upon the job, and the more training, certifications or degrees, the better your chances are of actually getting called for an interview.

You are responsible for taking charge of your professional development. This shows the organization you take your role as a leader seriously. The company will always be looking at you and what initiatives you are willing to take, not only for yourself but also for your team.

The more you learn, the more you have to share. Learning is a life-long process and not just for professional reasons.

Finally, as leadership expert Michael Hyatt says, "We don't know what we're capable of until we have an opportunity to test it." Test the waters as a leader and work on your professional development. You and your organization will be better for it.