Leadership Growth: Nurturing Your True Potential (Part 1 of 2)

Each spring, I take time to look around the farm and see how things are starting to come back to life. Some things will have died off completely and need to be replanted, while others will have gone dormant during the winter months, but will be ready to bud again as warmer weather arrives.

As I get older, I see how my leadership skills function a lot like the plants and flowers around here. Some aspects of my practice run their course, and I let those go in order to focus on more relevant ideas. Others are just forgotten amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, resurrecting themselves when I am prompted externally or a new need for their application grows.

Just like the shrubs, plants, trees, and blossoms I love so dearly, as a successful leader, there is always room for new growth and development.

Grow as a Leader Through Service

We are all human becomings. The day I stop learning and growing is probably my last day on Earth. While some people are predisposed to growth, it’s a mindset that takes cultivating. It’s a commitment to be better today than you were yesterday.

I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I needed to grow. Do you know the proverb necessity is the mother of invention? Well, my growth came out of necessity. I was either going to grow and evolve to meet the needs of my new circumstances, or the new circumstances were going to evolve beyond me … to my exclusion. It was that simple.

I talk a lot about servant leadership and with good reason. It was the needs of others that made me realize I had to expand my own leadership capacity. I had to learn how to show up for others. Of course, I have experienced failures and struggles along the way, but I have let a heart of service drive my perpetual need for leadership evolution. I have done that because it’s worked for me.

When you practice servant leadership, you create other servant leaders. It’s the difference between having a pyramid right-side up, where the wide base serves the point, versus a pyramid that is upside down, where the point serves the wide base, which has no cap on upward growth; It just grows and expands exponentially.

Can you see the difference between the two models? I hope so.

When you lead through service, you inspire others to do the same, growing your impact and theirs.

Self-Reflection and Awareness

Honesty comes in a couple of different forms. There’s outward honesty, where you tell the cashier they forgot to ring up your candy bar; and then there’s the inward kind, which is self-honesty. Self-honesty (a type of self-reflection) is usually much harder to practice than outward honesty, but it’s one of the most critical skills for successful leadership.

Read more about what I have to say about internal and external leadership.

You have to be willing and able to see where things aren’t working for you without having someone else point it out to you. Self-reflection is a sign of real maturity in your leadership development. It signals that you are humble enough to know you aren’t always right, which is important when it comes to growth. After all, how can you grow if you already know it all?

I like to gauge the percentage of time my mouth is open when I’m in a professional setting. See, if I’m constantly talking, it means my ears aren’t listening. I might be listening to myself, but I’m not listening to others, and that isn’t good. That ability to watch myself—to see what I’m doing that might not be in my own best interest—falls under the category of self-awareness.

Awareness not only helps us grow ourselves, but it’s also a form of emotional intelligence. It helps us read a room and adjust our presentation to reach people where they’re at. As a leader, if you can’t reach people, you’re playing with a handicap that will be hard to overcome.

How do you cultivate awareness? The same way you cultivate any other skill:  you practice with diligence and focus.

Learning and Skill Development

Any time I use the word growth, learning and developing are built into it. To me, growth implies learning and internal problem-solving: what to do better, what to stop doing, and what does and doesn’t work.

Learning is the state of mind that paves the way for leadership. If you aren’t in a constant state of setting goals for yourself and learning, you aren’t in a constant state of leading either. Learning reminds me to listen more, be more humble, and open my eyes to new growth opportunities.

Learning is the easiest state to be in. You just assume that everything coming at you is valuable information. It’s up to you to discern how to use the new information and how you’ll apply it in real life. Just remember: embracing learning experiences is a trait of effective leaders.

Skill development might sound like a course or lecture you sign up for at your annual conference. Maybe that excites you, but it’s more likely you dread it a little. Who could blame you?

You have to do more work on top of the work you are already doing as a leader? Yep. You sure do! The leader should be more committed, dedicated, and hardworking than anyone else. All that said, skill development does not have to be burdensome; if you approach it with curiosity, it can be a moment-to-moment adventure.

While some skills are very concrete, like learning new software or a new process your company just adopted, others are much more intangible, like learning perseverance or patience. Working on those is easy. You just have to have an eye for recognizing opportunities to develop those skills in your daily life.

However, if you need to learn something and you worry about the time involved, check out a blog I wrote about learning for leaders who keep a busy schedule. It outlines numerous ways to make skill development more accessible, even to someone who is as busy as a spring bee like yourself.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Leadership Growth: Nurturing Your True Potential,” where you’ll learn more useful tips for cultivating your own growth mindset. In the meantime, be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments below—my ears are open to hearing what you have to share!


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“The scarcest resource in the world is not oil, it’s leadership.”

As Co-CEO of the largest independent financal services company in North America, John Addison’s skill as a leader was tested and honed daily. He retired in 2015 after taking the company and it’s people to massive heights. He’s just not done helping people get to the top. Today, he’s at the helm of Addison Leadership Group, INC working daily to mentor and educate new leaders.