How To Grow As A Leader (For Individuals And Organizations)
As a self-directed leader, you can cause your department or organization to grow. You might say, “Well, I don’t know if I’m a leader.” You will be if you start visualizing, affirming, and acting the part. Many people will get on board, or they will try to hold you and the organization back because your vision will be too far out of their comfort zone to advance. They’ll find fault with your proposals. So give others the chance to visualize the new and to grow with you.
You will also need to recognize the selfish, mean, and negative leaders in your environment who want to hold you back. You’ve been taught to respect authority, but not everyone in a position of leadership is worthy of your followership, especially when they are leading you backwards.
To grow as a leader, you may also need to leave some friends and family members behind. When I left high school teaching, I wanted a lot of my friends to come with me into this business. But it was out of their comfort zone, or they didn’t want to. If I had waited for them and not moved until I could get the group to move, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. I needed to go it alone.
Sometimes you’re going to need to go it alone, because you can’t take the whole group around you. Taking into account your mission and values, you’ve got to decide, “Who comes with me?”
I made a vow to Diane that she and I would stay together, and we hope to take our children with us. But we’re not going to stop for our brothers and sisters or friends who might say, “What are you trying to do, be better than we are?”
“No, we’re just trying to improve the quality of our lives; if you want to come, please come along.”
As you grow, you’ll find that you won’t be socializing as you used to socialize; you won’t be going to some places you were going; and you won’t see some people as often as you once did. You don’t do this intentionally; you just don’t have the time, the interest or the connection.
As you stimulate tremendous growth in yourself, you will see that many people you know and love are, by comparison, “sleeping.” They’re sleeping in school systems, in government, in business, and industry. Some of your family and friends are sleeping. People stop their progress when they feel victimized. How do you respond to them? Do you drag them along? Perhaps, if they are family or close friends. But don’t let the others stop you. Try to love and enlist them to change the community or the environment that they’re in.
Such “tough love” is a mature love, and effective leadership. You want the people around you to live the life that they deserve to live and are capable of living. Knowing how to help yourself grow, you know how to help other people grow.
None of us are independent performers; we have spouses, teammates and colleagues who may or may not want us to change and who may become restraining forces along the way. How do we bring those people along with us?
We must decide whether to continue with them or without them; otherwise, we’ll stop our own growth because we won’t want to “leave our friends or family behind.” So, we need to make some tough decisions. If we don’t make the decisions, we’ll just complain about those people. We’ll resent them for holding us back.
You must be wise here. If you grow, but stop the people with you from growing, divorce, separation, and alienation occur. So who do you bring and how do you bring them along with you? And what do you value to the point where you’re willing to leave people behind? Who would you leave behind?
Those are serious questions that Diane and I have tackled over the years. Who do you leave behind? It’s not easy to leave people behind. But if they prevent us from using our tremendous potential to achieve our ideals, we must make some hard choices.
You naturally want to have your friends and family come with you as you grow and develop. Diane and I place high value on spouses attending our programs so that they set goals and grow together. Nobody could accuse us of setting one spouse against the other. To progress together, you must set some goals together and bring them about together.
You try your best to move ahead with the people you care about. We tried to do that with our children when they were in our care. But now that they’re adults, they make their own choices. It’s up to them. For many years, we slowed down for them. In some cases, we also slowed down for our extended family, at home and at work. And yet we still professed this mission, this aspiration, these goals. So, when someone asked, “Why aren’t you doing it?” I would say, “Well, we started to do something about it, but when somebody didn’t do what they said they would do, I never fired them. In fact, I would try to do it for them.”
If we are passive and permissive, we soon plateau, and our progress stalls.
In fairness, I must accept the bulk of the blame for this. I had to grow as a leader. My attitude toward managing people needed to change. I would only allow my company to grow so big because I couldn’t stand people calling me on the phone every night. I needed someone else to manage my company. But my attitude toward managers was that they just sit around and do nothing. I wanted doers! That was my attitude. I wouldn’t let my company grow because everybody who was a doer was calling me on the phone day and night, and it drove me nuts. So, I finally decided that managers should get those phone calls. I decided I’d better change my attitude about managers if I wanted to expand my company. Once I changed my attitude toward management, we grew a lot faster.