“Growth is what separates living things from dying things,” explain Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller in their new book Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life. “Growth brings energy, vitality, life, and challenge. Without growth, we’re just going through the motions.”
In a recent article for Blanchard’s online newsletter, Ignite! the authors warn that if leaders are not continually growing and developing their skills, they run the risk of becoming stagnant. Once you are stagnant—or even perceived as stagnant—your influence erodes.
Growth should never be an optional activity
Still, many leaders do not grow. And it can happen at any stage in a leader’s career. It can be triggered by work-life balance issues, a reactive mindset, or it can be for organizational reasons, such as limited growth opportunities.
But the reality is that all of these challenges can be overcome. As Blanchard and Miller explain, “It is the decision to grow that makes the difference. The best leaders make a conscious decision to grow throughout their career and their life. This single decision is a game changer for leaders.”
8 questions to ask yourself
Wondering if you are growing—or dying—as a leader? Here are some key questions to ask yourself based on Blanchard and Miller’s recommended first steps for leaders looking to grow (self-evaluation, honest feedback, and counsel from others.) To what extent would you agree or disagree with each statement?
- I know my own strengths and weaknesses.
- I constantly look for opportunities to grow at work.
- I consistently tell myself the truth regarding my leadership.
- I actively seek feedback from those I know to be truth-tellers.
- I have mastered the art and discipline of asking profound questions.
Counsel from Others:
- I have a mentor(s) who helps me grow.
- I frequently share what I’m learning with others.
- I have a group of people I trust to give me counsel on important issues.
How did you do? Did your answers surprise you? It may have been a while since you even considered the subject of growth—especially if you’ve been focused on the short-term or if you’ve become comfortable, complacent, or resigned in your current role. All of these are potentially destructive attitudes.
“Great leaders go out of their way to expand their worlds both inside and outside of work,” explain Blanchard and Miller. “A willingness to grow allows leaders to take advantage of opportunities when they come their way.
“You cannot always control the circumstances of your career or work environment. However, you can control your readiness to lead and grow. Leaders who don’t are susceptible to pride, ego, and other destructive attitudes that can impede growth. As a result, they can become isolated and have a distorted sense of what’s going on.”
As Blanchard and Miller warn, “Be ready to face the next challenge, or you can end up as a leader who tries to apply yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems. That’s a recipe for failure.”
To read more of Blanchard and Miller’s thinking on the importance of growth, check out If You Want to Lead, You Have to Grow. Also, take a look at the free webinar the authors will be conducting on February 23, Great Leaders Grow: The Four Keys to Becoming a Leader for Life, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.