Leadership Growth Means Seeing Your Gap

Yesterday a client confided in me that he’s been in a slump for about three weeks. He doesn’t feel effective. He’s taking two steps forward and three steps back. He’s discouraged about how much remains to be done. He’s overly sensitive to feedback and criticism from others. He wonders if he’s really up to the challenge.

I’ve worked with this client for several years now and he’s light years ahead of where he was when I met him. His business has taken smart, decisive steps to address the economic downturn and is more stable and profitable than his competitors. He’s grown significantly as an executive, making the tough calls, examining the company’s culture more objectively, and forming a team built around higher levels of accountability.

So why does he feel so bad?

Because as much as he’s grown into his leadership, his vision of leadership has grown even more. So despite his forward progress, “the gap” seems bigger than ever.

This is a typical scenario when we commit to our personal and professional growth. There is a period in this growth process in which we learn about what’s possible — we begin to compare ourselves to a higher standard and embrace a significant set of possibilities. Naturally we will come up short of this new vision for ourselves, becoming discouraged, hopefully temporarily, by the increasing gap we now see.

At Path Forward we often see this progression. Frequently the participants in our programs are initially content with where they are. As we teach them the Leadership Platform, they begin to form a new vision of leadership, and an honest assessment reveals to them that they have much work to do. We have to remind them that the idea is constant improvement — gradual but certain steps toward a higher plane of achievement and maturity. It doesn’t — it can’t — happen overnight.

YOUR PATH FORWARD: In pursuit of your growth as a leader (and as a person) try to compare yourself to yourself — to where you’ve been. If you compare yourself to an impossible standard (like a musician comparing herself to Mozart), you will come up short and be sorry you even tried. But if your goal is simply to keep growing, then each step on your path forward will feel enriching, no matter how big a gap remains.

Want to identify the gaps “bad bosses” have on their teams? Check-out our Nov. 12th seminar: 6 Steps to Building Better Bosses

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About the Author

Jim Hessler
Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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