“I know what I am doing now.”  That is what I thought after a few years leading sales teams. I thought I had arrived.  But each time I allowed myself to think that, I was proven wrong.

It took awhile, but I finally realized becoming a leader has no end point.

Growth Takes Work

Unfortunately, some leaders fall into a rut and stop growing.  To be a lifetime leader, leaders need to never stop growing.  If leaders stop growing, over time people will stop following.

Three Keys To Growing as a Leader

There are three things leaders need in order to embrace a lifetime of growth.  Without them, leaders are unlikely to grow beyond who they currently are.  With them, leaders will grow and flourish throughout their lives.

1.  Openness

If we are to grow, we must be open and honest with ourselves. We must truly believe that we need to get better.

Without that type of vulnerability, it is unlikely that we would ever spend time examining our weaknesses. Our ego would reign, and we would rarely ask others for help.

2.  Humility

Openness and humility are tied together.  But just being open is not enough. Many people believe they are open to new ideas or criticism, yet they rarely take the iniative to change.

It takes openness to recognize growth is needed.  It takes Humility to be willing to try something new even if it makes us to be uncomfortable.

The pride we carry for our past accomplishments can often cause us to ignore a new strategy or idea that would force us to grow.  Our pride can keep us in a comfortable place. When in fact we need to be uncomfortable in order to grow.

It is like exercising.  If we never get uncomfortable and break a sweat during a workout, are we getting any stronger? Are we growing when we are comfortable?

3.  Focus

Once we are open and humble enough to grow, we need to focus. We must focus on growing in areas that will have the most impact on us as leaders.

I know there is a laundry list of things I need to improve upon.  If I asked the people I work with daily or my family, that list could probably double. 

But what are the one or two areas that will do the most to improve my ability to positively influence others?

Here is a list of things I have worked on over the years:

  • Eliminating gray areas and half-truths
  • Saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said.
  • Praising good performance
  • Being the last to speak in meetings
  • Listening longer than I want to
  • Focusing on priorities
  • Avoiding sarcasm
  • Following through on commitments

I did not work on them all at once.  These are things I focused on over the last 25 years.  What’s next for me?

  • Serving others when it is inconvenient

Notice I am only focusing on one thing. I believe this is probably the most important thing for me to improve upon if I am going to continue to grow.

We cannot achieve focus by diffusing our efforts across multiple tasks or strategies.  Diffusion and focus do not go together.  I wrote a blog on this topic:  Focus Requires Elimination

The Bottom Line:

Once a tree stops growing, it starts dying.  As a leader, if we are not growing, our influence is likely dying as well.

To be a leader who grows we must first be open to my need for growth.  Then we need to be humble enough to risk our comfort in order to grow.  Finally, we must maintain our focus on growing the 1-2 aspects of our character that will improve our impact on others.

Becoming a leader is a never-ending quest.  None of us have achieved the potential we have inside of us and we never will. 

But, being open, humble and focused will help us stay on the path and grow to become the leaders we are capable of being – no matter how long we have been leading.


What prevents you from taking positive steps towards growing?

Dave Anderson is coauthor of the Amazon Best-Seller Becoming a Leader of Character – Six Habits that Make or Break a Leader at Work and at Home with his father General James L. Anderson (USA Retired).

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