Leaders need to grow.

If I was having a conversation today about leadership with my 19 year old self I would probably see someone with a bit of bravado, with some ‘assumed’ coolness (because I wasn’t that cool, I just thought I was), a person with a very laid-back approach to life, and a seeming disregard to having to talk to someone older who might actually know something that could help them as they start out in leadership.

You will need to grow.

5 simple words. That is what I would say to myself. I’m sure I got told that. Actually, I’m fairly certain that my leaders may well have just told me to ‘grow up’ but the sentiment would have been the same. Growth as a leader is essential.

Sometimes I have fought the need to grow. Other times I have embraced it. I have willingly and unwillingly listened to others who definitely knew better. I have banged my head on my leadership lid more times than I can remember. Each time I have had to decide – do I grow as leader, increase my capacity or do I just stay where I am and probably lose my leadership role eventually to the ones who decided to keep on growing.

Here’s what I am still learning about when it comes to growing as a leader….

Growth is best when it’s gradual. 
Don’t try and get there in a day. Becoming a better leader takes time. I have been in some form of leadership for 25 years and I am still developing, learning, changing and growing. You never reach perfection as a leader. Just keep on looking for that improvement.

I’m not big into exercise. I need to get better but I do know that if you don’t warm up or stretch out your muscles it can cause problems. Stretch is important to help you become stronger physically. The same is true in leadership. I have learned that to keep growing I have had to keep looking for opportunities where I will be challenged and stretched.

Growth must happen. 
Without growth we are stagnating. We are saying I don’t need to learn anymore, I have arrived. We never arrive. At 19 I didn’t need to grow. Now at 44, I realise I need to grow all the time.

If you don’t want to be a leader anymore, just stop growing yourself and see what happens.
Growth needs to be internal.
Talent is great, but character is greater. People may follow talent for a while but over the longer term, they follow the person. What makes the person who they are is what others follow. Leadership is about much more than the successful completion of a task.

It’s a fight sometimes but we all know where we need to grow. Be honest with yourself. Recognise strengths. Make them stronger and become an expert in them. Acknowledge weaknesses too. Don’t just ignore them. Develop the right ones that link to your internal leadership character, your integrity and your trustworthiness, rather than the talent aspect, although you may need to do that too.

Growth or the lack of it will become evident, eventually.
Others may recognise our growth or lack of it before we do. It only really becomes visible when we get tested in the area we needed to have grown in. The ‘next time’ will tell us the truth about how we are doing.

Like it or not, I have found that having people in my world who I am ‘happy’ to hear the truth from helps me. I’m not always ‘happy’ with what they might say but I am even less happy with being found out in my leadership by others who just love to tell me about my failings. That’s never a pleasant experience.

What would you add to the list about why growing as a leader is important?

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