How do we grow ourselves as leaders? Assuming that we want to grow and that we have taken personal responsibility for our own growth, here are some things we can do:
1. Read all you can about leadership. Leaders are readers. Every great leader I have known personally is a reader. For most of us, this is a discipline; we make ourselves do it. Set a goal and challenge yourself to read a book per month, then two books per month and so on. If you don't know what book to read, start with anything by John Maxwell or ask a leader you know if she could tell you one of the best leadership books they can recommend. Order a book today.
2. Get leading something. To grow as a leader, you need leadership experience. Find opportunities to lead, whether it's your son's soccer team or your community's food drive. Volunteer yourself to lead at work, at home and in the community. Nothing can replace the value of actually leading something and wrestling with real life leadership issues.
3. Reflect on your leadership. Take time to think through your philosophy of leadership, your values, and your personal style. What mistakes do you tend to make? What are your strengths? Take time every week (maybe even every day) to reflect on how your leadership is going and what you are learning. This is often done best in discussion with a friend or mentor.
4. Get around other leaders. Do everything you can to spend time with leaders. Practice following great leaders, asking them great questions and then listening carefully. You can spend time with great leaders through biographies and books as well as in person.
5. Persevere in your leadership development. It's easy to get excited about something and do it for a week or two. It's another matter to put your heart to something for a decade or more. Take the long road approach. Lasting influence happens through lasting leadership development. Be careful of the extremes of either arrogance or discouragement that can keep you from continuing on your growth path.