Here’s something I think we all know: It’s not easy being a leader.
It doesn’t matter if you’re leading your family or a Fortune 500 company. There are a million responsibilities and demands.
I’m not sure I’d be honest if I didn’t recognize that some days I ask myself, “Why am I leading?” Then, there are all the other days where I see the positive impact on my family, my businesses, my team and my community from setting the strategic direction for a group of talented people to make an extraordinary impact. That’s why we’re leaders. We love making a positive impact.
If you ask 10 leaders what the key to their success is, you’ll likely get several answers. My secret weapon for over 30 years has been my intentional commitment to personal growth. It started when I read my first book by New York Times bestselling author John Maxwell. He’s been my mentor for decades. He taught me that growth doesn’t automatically happen and a leader can’t give what he or she doesn’t have, so we as leaders have to constantly be growing.
In his book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, he asks two critical questions at the beginning. What are you doing to develop yourself? What are you doing to develop others? Pause for a minute and answer those questions for yourself. I suggest writing your answers down and sharing them with a friend to serve as your accountability partner.
In this book, John teaches us the laws he’s been using for over 40 years, so they’ve been road-tested. He says there’s a difference between getting older and getting better. You’ve probably guessed it by now, but the first law is the Law of Intentionality. John writes that the greatest growth gap is the gap between knowing and doing.
British author James Allen writes in his book, As a Man Thinketh, that “people are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves. They therefore remain bound.”
Ouch, that hurts. I don’t want to be stuck. Do you? As a leader, I’m driven to forward movement and the Law of Intentionality helps me keep moving.
But my favorite law is the Law of the Rubberband. The rule behind this is that growth stops when you lose the tension between where you are and where you could be. Bottom line, life begins at the end of your comfort zone. John characterizes your comfort zone as “doing the same things in the same ways with the same people at the same time and getting the same results and then asking the question, why did this happen?”
Let’s be honest, most of us like being in our comfort zone. It feels good, safe and predictable. However, what got you to where you are today won’t get you to where you could be. You’re going to have to try new things. Here are some advantages to stretching yourself:
- You learn things faster than the people who don’t take risks.
- You have a broader range of experiences because you’re doing things others aren’t.
- You find more obstacles sooner.
- You learn to get around those obstacles.
We need to stretch in the areas of our abilities. This works for mistakes, too. Mistakes in areas we’re good at challenge us while mistakes in our weaknesses intimidate us.
I only have enough space to share one more law. You’ll likely want to read the whole book for yourself, but let’s explore the Law of Tradeoffs. John Maxwell says you have to give up to grow up. Here are a couple questions John suggests we use when evaluating the situation: What are the pluses and minuses of the tradeoff? Will I go through this change or will I grow through this change?
I’ll give you a personal example of this law. I spent 14 years working my way up to the number two position at a non-profit in Pennsylvania. I loved the company and the community, but I longed to lead an organization and I was stuck. I had to leave what I loved to get what I longed for. I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and took over another non-profit. I have not only grown myself but grown the organization, too. It was a tradeoff I would definitely make again. The bonus is I left my snowblower and shovel up north.
Now, you better understand why I call growth my secret weapon.