As a leader, the first person I need to lead is me. The first person I should try to change is me.
I am old enough to remember as a kid riding in the car with my dad or mom and stopping at the “filling station” to get gas. We’d pull up and drive over the cord that would ring the bell and the attendant would come out and ask, “regular or unleaded?” When given the preference and how much to put in, the attendant would walk to the back of the car, pull back the license plate, twist off the cap, and pump the gas. While the gas was being pumped, the attendant would clean the windshield and check the air pressure in the tires, check the oil, and when everything was done, we’d be on our way.
Over time, that began to change. I’ll never forget when the “filling stations” gradually transitioned over to self-service. Gone were the days when someone else did for us that which we were capable of doing ourselves. Those early days of the full-service gas station experience are from a distant time and era and you’d be hard-pressed to find one today.
In the opposite fashion, I remember the early days of my leadership development. I was cutting my teeth on books by Warren Bennis, Zig Ziglar, and others who made such an impact in my early leadership development. Then in the early 1990s, I read my first book by John Maxwell, and my leadership journey was forever transformed.
But back in those days, we didn’t have the luxury of the internet and the access we have to such great content and through the mediums we have today with websites, podcasts, streaming services, etc. The growth we experienced we owned with great intentionality.
I am profoundly grateful for where we are today and the access we have to leaders from all over the world who lend their voices to help others grow. It truly is a remarkable time in terms of the opportunity one now has to grow in their leadership.
As I reflect on these things I am reminded that for all the access we have to such great content, it all comes down to the fact that you and I are responsible for our own growth. We have to want it and we have to own it. Access and opportunity alone are not enough. So how do we take ownership of our leadership growth? Here are three tips for consideration.
Make a plan
If you want to grow as a leader you will need to make a growth plan. If you are not intentional about it, it’s not going to happen. Write out the goals and objectives that you want to attain. You can start with short-range goals – goals that are six months to a year out. Develop medium-range goals – goals you want to achieve in three to five years. Then you can develop long-range goals – where you want to be in five or more years. It all begins with a plan.
Work the plan
The plan is of no value to you unless you work it. Growth is an inside job and before you can lead others you first have to lead yourself. Just as it takes time for seeds to grow and produce fruit, so too is your leadership growth. The seeds of leadership within you grow as you nourish them – it’s in the daily disciplines that growth happens.
Always have the mindset of a student
I’ve been reading leadership books for almost four decades now. That doesn’t make me an “expert” nor does it give me an excuse to “phone it in” just because I’ve been around the block a few times. Owning your leadership growth means that there is always more to learn and always something to learn from someone else. Never stop learning. Never stop being curious. Never stop asking questions.
Growth is an inside job so invite others in to share the journey with you. But at the end of the day whether you grow, or not, is all on you. You have to own your leadership growth. Make a plan, work the plan, and never stop learning.