4 Reasons Why it is Important to Grow as a Leader

How many of you were enthralled by watching the Summer Olympics in 2012? I know I am. It was thrilling to watch the Fab Five win the gold in gymnastics, Michael Phelps winning gold and then losing gold by centiseconds in two of his individual events, and who didn’t fall in love with Missy Franklin, the swimming sensation and sweetheart from Colorado? Despite all of their natural ability they worked hard to hone their craft. I wonder what kind of leaders we would be, if we devoted as much time and energy to grow as these Olympians did?

As I prepared to attend a recent leadership summit, I thought about why I carve out time to hone my craft. Growing as a leader does the following:

  1. It raises my game. There is nothing like the stress of working hard to break through a plateau and reaching a higher level of performance. Several years ago I could barely bike 20 miles at any one time. Today I’ve completed several century rides and think nothing of going out for a 50-mile bike ride. Certainly part of this improvement was achieved by practicing, but I also needed to learn more about pedal stroke efficiency, interval training, heart rate training and the things I needed to do off the bike to become a stronger and better rider.   The same is true of leadership – we practice every day, but what are we doing to improve our game? 
  1. It motivates others to follow me. People are not interested in following leaders who are stagnant. They are much more interested in following leaders who are energized and have great ideas and vision that expands over time. Certainly character and competence are prerequisites if we expect others to follow us, but if we’re not growing, the people we lead will soon become disinterested in following.
  1. It helps me identify my blind spots. We all have blind spots. The other day I was talking to my coach about an area of improvement I saw in someone else. As we processed the issue, it became clear that I had a blind spot that was preventing me from addressing the issue in a timely manner. It reminded me again that leadership is not a solo sport; we need other people to help us identify what we can’t see in ourselves. Input from others helps me see things from a different perspective.
  1. It helps me reach my God-given potential. Don’t we all long to be all that God created us to be? Part of this includes being intentional about our growth and seek opportunities for growth. There is a 2012 60-Minutes interview with Michael Phelps. After the 2008 Olympics, he spent little time in the pool. He didn’t practice to to point where his coach didn’t know if he was going to make it to the Olympics despite his natural talent. Michael’s challenge was to learn to grow beyond the accolades and medals he previously won.

Being a great leader takes discipline and diligence, even in the face of success. You can be good at what you do, but you can never be all that God intended until you cooperate with His purposes and are intentional about your growth and development.

Share Your Thoughts: What types of things do you do to develop your leadership and your character?

The Selling CEO

Over the years I have worked with many CEO’s and the best ones fully understand their role as The Selling CEO. This article is written for the rest of you. The CEO of any organization is not only the Chief Executive Officer but the CSO or Chief Selling Officer. As the CEO he or she must sell their vision, mission and values along with their products or services. In fact they are in a constant state of selling; ideas, proposals, concepts, projects, etc. Whether it is to their executive team, their front line employees, their board or their banker they need to be champions of sales.

It all starts with the person. In Tom Stanley’s book; The Millionaire Mind he states that all self-made millionaires have four common characteristics; integrity, discipline, good interpersonal skills and finally courage. Although courage is not on the list with the first three, he does say in later chapters that most of these individuals will be found in church on Sunday, thus their Spiritual connection gives them courage. I am reminded of Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

I believe the CEO too must possess these qualities. Integrity being the key to any selling situation, always doing what’s in the best interest of employees and customers. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” Proverbs 2:6-8

The next critical element for every selling CEO, or any sales professional for that matter, is understanding your “why”. Most people in either position understand what they do, they can generally explain how they do it but rarely do they understand the why of their products or services. A CEO must sell from their “why”, not the “what” or “how”. Ask yourself, why does my company exist in the eye of my customers? What difference do we make in the marketplace, in the world for that matter? The best example of this is Apple, they truly understand their “why”, which fuels their success! To explore this concept further I suggest reading both Start with Why by Simon Sinek and It’s Not What You Sell but What You Stand For by Roy M. Spence, Jr.

Moving on as the Selling CEO you must have a compelling vision for your organization. We are all familiar with the verse in Proverbs 29:18B, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” A passionate leader with a clear vision will inspire “sell” other to excel.

I won’t spend much time on mission because that ties back to your “why”. I do want to close this article with “values”. Values are the anchor for any organization, they will guide each individual in the organization on how they respond to customer service issues, quality focus and frankly every action and interaction in the company. The Selling CEO must have a strong set of core values, these values translate to the company’s values, which serve as a moral compass or guide for everyone.

In my 30 plus years as a sales professional as well as a trusted advisor to executives and CEO’s I learned that without these fundamentals, the Selling CEO will fall short. Live with integrity, courage, discipline, abnd develop your interpersonal skills. Understand your “why”, develop a compelling vision and set a strong set of values that act as a compass to all concerned. Remember every CEO is a Selling CEO.


Appointed for Abundance

I have come that they might have life; and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10 God has appointed you for abundance as you abide in Him today.

When I feel the weight of the world, burdens of the day and the limits of my abilities, will I believe Jesus’ promise? So many well-meaning believers throughout the years have claimed these verses for their own gain and prosperity that some of us have been left wondering. Life is hard! The reality of loss, pain or opposition often goes right to the heart and leaves us...well...wondering. Why? Because life is hard! Yet, too much wondering will lead to wandering. When you are in those times or seasons, what keeps you going? Do you give up or press on?

No matter what you are facing today, listen to the charge from the writer of Hebrews, let these words sink deep, "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved" (Hebrews 10:39). Will you believe today the promise that God through His son Jesus Christ has come to give you life, and life to the full?

The enemy’s work is to "steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10). That’s his aim, and he’s a good adversary. I've heard it said the enemy doesn’t care anything about you, he just wants to destroy the Word in you. You pose no threat to him. The threat is the power of God through the promise and truth written on your life, "hidden in your heart" (Psalm 119:11). Will you believe today? Let us stand together as the Church, united and full of life today!

Let's look a little deeper biblically to the work of the Father.  Let's turn back to Hebrews for insight and instruction. Discipline, it's hard and painful. It might feel like "steal, kill and destroy," but what it is really? "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). "It produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those have been trained by it" (verse 11).

Now, let us look at Pruning. Once again, we see the handiwork of the Father as the good gardener. Yet, it doesn't feel very good. "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:2). How many of us want more fruit in our life? I’m the first in line. How many of us want to be disciplined and pruned? Well, not so much...is there another way? Not so much! We are being conformed into the image of Christ, justified and walking in a journey of sanctification that will yield the fruit of righteousness, peace and abundance in our life. Let us be wise with regard to God’s discipline and pruning in our lives. Our greatest pain may be our greatest blessing.

Let us be wise and aware of the enemy's tactics to steal, kill and destroy. Let us stand firm under opposition, threat and lies. Let us also hold on to the truth that the Father loves us even when it hurts. There is a pain that will not destroy but ultimately bring life. "I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last" (John 15:16, NIV). In the King James Version it reads, "Fruit that remains." So today, what do you do? "Remain in me, and I will remain in you" (John 15:4).

God has appointed you for abundance as you abide in Him today.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:9-10).


Buy and Do Not Sell

Sitting in Seattle this morning. Heading to the warehouse shortly to begin my work day. It's been my job for many years now...the buying and selling of goods. By profession you could say I’m a merchant! I understand the flow of commerce, of goods and service. Yet, I’m always learning and developing. The better the exchange and value to the client, the better the yield. So, when I come to this passage in Proverbs, I’m gripped. I stop short with its charge: “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).

The idea of exchange is exciting. I gain knowledge and give it away. Yet, I’m reminded of school days: of cramming for a test, just-in-time learning, and as soon as the answer is written down, the knowledge goes with it. My nephew is preparing to take the SAT and ACT to gain entry to college. How can any of us remember all those the facts and processes? I shudder to think of my score if I took the test today.

So, ironically, today I’m working in a capacity of exchange that has been my job for 16 years now. And yet, I’m still paying for variable costs that could have been avoided if I had managed the product and logistics more efficiently. When will I learn? When will I buy wisdom, discipline and understanding? When will I own it and allow it to own me?

Thanks to my work as a chair with Convene, I’m reading a thought-provoking and comprehensive business-planning book, Business Model Generation by Osterwalder. Again, I’m always learning. I study to learn and grow so I can avoid pitfalls in business. I study, as well, to help others in my circles to avoid the same patterns. I want to own those ideas so I buy them with my time, study and practice.

I’m young enough to have many miles ahead but more in my rearview mirror...

What wisdom, discipline and understanding do I own? What have I purchased along the way? What wisdom do I need to keep and not sell in a transactional exchange, but see it become woven into the character of my life?

Even today, in the commerce of day, let me buy so I need to keep...and hold on to it...so I may become a man of wisdom, discipline and understanding.