Mark Craemer No Comments

A plant, an animal, a human being all continue to grow or they begin to die. The same is true for leaders and entire organizations.

More than 20 years ago, Peter Senge wrote “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organization,” and he defines a learning organizations as “…organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.”

In “Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life,” a new book by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller, the authors explain how leaders who stop growing can no longer be effective. As they write in the introduction “. . . the path to increased influence, impact, and leadership effectiveness is paved with personal growth.… Our capacity to grow determines our capacity to lead. It’s really that simple.”

Continual growth and lifelong learning are what separate those leaders who sustain their effectiveness from those who do not. Great leaders grow as naturally as they breathe. They don’t get caught up in ego-boosting accolades or the current high stock price. Instead, they remain humble to the ignorance of what they still do not know.

Perhaps no other skill is more vital in the 21st century than the ability to continually learn and grow. And this is true not only for leaders at the top of organizations, but for all who seize leadership opportunities no matter where they reside on the organizational chart.

Individual employees need to continually learn and grow in their business and technical skills as well as their interpersonal skills; team members need to learn and grow so they can overcome conflict and dysfunction to be more effective as a group than they are as individuals; and entire organizations need to learn and grow so they can continually innovate and quickly respond to customers and market conditions.

This growth for the individual can be accomplished in many ways. Blanchard and Miller break it down into the following:

Gain Knowledge – know your strengths and weakness, know the people around you on a deep level, know your industry extremely well, etc.

Reach Out to Others – look for ways to invest in the growth of others, seek mentoring relationships with emerging leaders, frequently use teachable moments, share what you are learning with others, etc.

Open Your World – be on the lookout for ways to grow at work, seek new experiences outside of work, look for additional opportunities to lead everywhere, etc.

Walk Toward Wisdom – be honest with yourself regarding your leadership, actively seek feedback from other truth tellers, seek the counsel of others for important issues, master the art and discipline of asking profound questions, etc.

Each of us is capable of determining our own deficiencies and growing edges. Regardless, seek out feedback opportunities not only with your immediate supervisor, but with co-workers, customers, suppliers, friends, and anyone who can give you an honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses.

And don’t rely exclusively on standard, corporate-mandated training. Seek out the books, presentations, training, mentors, experiences, and opportunities that will serve you in your quest to continually learn and grow.

Take charge of your personal growth and take charge of your leadership potential. This is good for your career and it is good for the organization where that “collective aspiration is set free” and it can thrive in the new economy.

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