In John C. Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (2007), John discusses the importance of understanding the path to leadership is a process and does not happen overnight. We live in a time that is dominated by a microwave mentality. We like our popcorn in three minutes or less. Television portrays the resolution of problems in 30 to 60 minutes. The constant and sometimes subtle reminders of instant gratification lures us to desire that leadership development also occurs rapidly if not instantly. Maxwell reminds his readers that leadership development is an investment. Similarly, you are unlikely to become financially independent in one day but small financial investments over time compound and often result in financial success over long periods.
Some people demonstrate natural leadership ability and grow more rapidly, while others require a focused approach to develop leadership skills. Growing the factors that contribute to leadership ability – character, relationships, knowledge, intuition, experience, and past success – takes time and your focus to develop (see leadership factors in this blog post for more details).
Personal Growth Phases
Personal growth tends to follow the phases shown in the following figure. Your dedication to personal growth influences the progression through the phases. Bennis and Nanus (1997) state, “It’s the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers” (p.56) and therein lies the responsibility for each of us to take charge of our personal growth.
On a personal note, over many years I developed an enjoyable and rewarding career in technology. I was provided and pursued many opportunities that allowed me grow my technical and leadership skills.
However, the telecommunication downturn and recession of 2001 initiated vast workforce reductions throughout the industry. After many years of growth and demand for technologists, the reductions flooded the market with a pool of talented people. As a result, many employers raised the standard for entry to personnel with degrees. The situation created some personal anxiety and concern regarding my viability in the workplace and overall marketability. While I remained employed throughout that period, I choose to return to school to complete a bachelors program to bind my experience and skill with education. The phases of personal growth became readily apparent throughout the education process and reinforced the necessity to maintain a watchful eye over industry trends and to close the gaps that affect my personal marketability.
To summarize, growth is a process that requires observation, planning, and dedicated focus. One does not develop leadership ability in a day but evolves over time through attention to the growth process.
Mind map of the 21 laws of leadership.
Bennis, W. and Nanus, B. (1997). Leaders: Strategies for taking charge. HarperCollins.
Maxwell, John. (2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.