“Focus on getting better, before getting bigger.” – S.Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A restaurants.
“If I stop learning, I stop leading.” – Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller in Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life
Leadership titles don’t mean very much if the leader isn’t worth following.
As leaders, we have a bias toward action and we want to see our organizations grow. We want to charge the next hill and accomplish the next goal.
However, like the proverbial dog that chases cars, what are we going to do with it when we catch it? Do we have the character that can handle the growth we desire?
When our focus is on getting better as a leader, the growth will take care of itself.
Why get better?
We respect leaders who grow.
No leader can be perfect, but we want those who lead us to be trying to grow. We want them to be constantly improving their character. As Adam Grant points out in his fantastic book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, the motivation to become better precedes the development of the skills themselves. Leaders are motivated learners. Respected leaders are those who know they don’t have it all together and are willing to put in the time and effort required to grow.
We have a harder time following leaders we consider to be “takers” who are only in a position of leadership for themselves. We expect our leaders to be humble enough to see that they can’t do it on their own but need the help of others and are willing to give to others.
One way we help others is by growing ourselves.
Superman, Iron Man and Captain Kirk are great for comic books and summer blockbusters and it turns out they have something to teach us about leadership when they exemplify honesty and courage. (See http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougguthrie/2013/06/14/looking-for-leaders-settling-for-superheroes/). These are issues related to our leadership character rather than skills.
How to grow
Growing leaders feed themselves a steady diet of leadership books, podcasts, blogs, conferences and workshops. Some leaders find coaches or mastermind groups to give them personal attention to areas that need to be strengthened.
We are blessed to live in a time of abundance of information that can help us grow in our leadership character. We can be mentored from a distance by people we’ve never met through books and online resources.
If we are serious about becoming better before bigger we, as author Bill Hybels suggests in Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs, will do whatever we have to do to increase our leadership input, because we know it will make us better.
We become leaders worth following by making ourselves better before we get bigger.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on ways you are trying to get better as a leader.