Good leadership always makes a difference; unfortunately, so does bad leadership. This leadership truth continues as we discuss the third of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, The Law of Process.
The Law of Process is all about growth—personal, professional, and leadership. Leadership is a process, just like anything where you want consistency; follow the process and you will be successful and consistent (the two are indelibly connected). You can’t improve your leadership by reading a book, taking a class, or merely thinking about it. The only way to improve is to live it day in, day out. It requires growth with intention. But what does that mean? It means you need to ask yourself, “What can I do today to improve my leadership skills?” and “What do I need to learn, change, or act on today?” This approach needs to be done every single day. Remember the whole process thing:
Leadership develops daily, not in a day. - John C. Maxwell
Five Phases of Leadership
There are five phases of leadership, and to reiterate the intentional part of leadership, you will notice that each phase makes an “I” statement:
- I don’t know what I don’t know.
- I know that I need to know.
- I know what I don’t know. (What is your plan for growth?)
- I know and grow—it starts to show.
- I simply go because of what I know.
I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know
If you are any kind of leader, you have asked yourself this question many, many times. Poor leaders fail to recognize leadership opportunities simply because they aren’t growing. Poor leaders don’t see themselves as poor leaders. They fail to realize the first lesson we learned that leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. They also may not feel that they influence anyone, but we all influence others. It’s quite simple, as John Maxwell says, “As long as a person doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, he isn’t going to grow.”
I Know That I Need to Know
Many people are in leadership positions that require them to actually lead, but are surprised to discover that they just don’t have the skill set required. Remember our discussion on the difference between managers and leaders? It happened to me when I was early in my career. I was a good manager but in situations that required true leadership I painfully realized that I lacked the appropriate skills to motivate others to act. It took me a while (years) to appreciate this fact. I learned that I had two options: continue as a good manager or become intentional in my growth and step up my game.
I Know What I Don’t Know
I had been a manager for about 10 years when I read my first leadership book. My eyes were opened as I read, and I began to recognize the leadership behaviors in the leaders I admired. The first book led to a second, and a lifelong learning journey that eventually led me to the John Maxwell team. Even though I am now a certified leadership speaker, coach, and trainer, I am still learning. Being intentional requires a plan to grow. Remember the first law, the Law of the Lid? Your leadership level will be a lid on your leadership skills that will not improve without a plan.
I Know and Grow—It Starts to Show
If you are intentional and have a plan, you will start to see little things that show growth in your skill set. It may be a decision that, prior to your growth, would have been a totally different one because you are now seeing the big picture. Like the motto of my fellow Harley enthusiasts, “It’s about the journey, not about the destination.” Appreciate the ride, and have a plan so that one day you will look back and realize how far you’ve come.
I Simply Go Because of What I Know
The first four phases are about being intentional and growth focused. Phase five is when your growth becomes almost automatic, like anything you want to improve, by practice, practice, and more practice. Remember, leadership is a lifelong journey, and the learning never stops.
Process Will Lift Your Lid
In the Law of the Lid, we learned there are many ways to lift your lid. Ask yourself:
- What am I doing right now to build myself into a great leader?
- What book am I reading right now?
- What seminars am I enrolling in?
- What sacrifices am I making to reach my goal?
If you answer “none” to any of these, you are not being effectively intentional in your leadership development. I’ll say it again, the only way to improve your leadership is to live it day in and day out. It requires growth with intention.
I will close with another timeless quote from a leadership giant:
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” —Jack Welch
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, by John C. Maxwell, published by HarperCollins Leadership, 2007.
- Maxell, John C.
Steve Williams is an independent certified coach, trainer and speaker with the John Maxwell team.
This column originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine.