Growing your leadership capacity might be one of the most important and maybe most overlooked quality of leaders today.
Grow Your Self Identity Capacity
Young leaders often struggle with their “identity”. To grow your identity, you have to grow your capacity to be “you”. Society labels you. Labels limit you. Limits create boundaries. Boundaries stifle your capacity for growth. John Maxwell says: “If you don’t know what’s limiting you, how will you remove it?”
So how do you begin to grow your capacity to be more than the limitations and labels you accepted of yourself when you were younger?
I have always been a curious person, and so I think it was that curiosity that led me to try new things and to question the status quo…in anything. So, when people labeled me one way, I would naturally question it and challenge it and test to see if it was really true. I think when I did that, and tried new things, I began to discover for myself who I was and more importantly who I wasn’t.
Grow Your Diversity Capacity
There are two kinds of people: those who make deposits and those who make withdrawals. So choose your inner circle carefully, because our inner circle limits us if we don’t let it evolve. I believe it was John Maxwell who said that you will become just like the 5 people you hang around with the most – so your inner circle is vital in developing your capacity. I have carefully chosen who I ask to mentor me and who I allow to speak into my life. I look for people who have a particular skill or quality that I feel I lack or need to develop and I seek them out for mentorship.
When I found the right person I would write them an email and tell them about what trait or skill I admired in them and how I would like to take them for lunch or for a coffee so that I could ask them a series of questions on that topic. I was always very specific about what I wanted to meet about and how long it would take to meet. As a result, I have developed a number of really cool friendships and mentors this way. It’s important to recognize that there isn’t one person who encompasses all of the skills, talents and strengths I need to grow, so it is important to find a variety of people you can learn from and then be prepared to ask great questions of them. This is a great way to expand your capacity.
The danger comes when I narrow my inner circle to those who are just like me. It is human nature to seek out people who think just like you do and who you can agree with but if we only learn from people who are just like us we put massive limitations on our capacity. Sure, sometimes it’s more comfortable that way as I don’t have to be challenged in my thinking or criticized or confronted but confrontation and criticism aren’t always bad and can result in helping a develop and broaden our thinking.
So, I try hard to not allow myself to get stuck in that rut. I seek to learn all I can from different sources. I mostly do that through books and reading authors from a variety of different perspectives, and if a person’s point of view makes me mad I ask “Why?” and I have discovered that most of the time there is something in me that needs to change.
There are times when I have the privilege of sitting down with people who are from a different camp than me and I make sure that I do more listening than talking. You will be amazed at what you can learn and from whom you can learn, if you intentionally embrace a diversity of thoughts.
Exposure to a diverse way of thinking may question everything you thought you knew. Exposure to the ways a diverse group of people process information or how they make decisions will grow your thinking capacity in ways you never imagined. That’s how you grow. Your capacity to open yourself to a diversity of people, a diversity of thought and a diversity of leadership styles doesn’t happen overnight but it is important if you are going to develop your growth capacity.
But you can’t expose yourself to what you don’t know exist. So be curious! Most of the times I have learned something new it was by asking people questions and genuinely listening. Listening is key. I am amazed at what I have learned by listening to people and probing into their worlds. I also think it is important to especially listen to the next generation. As I get older, I am finding it easier to think I know more than those younger than me, and that is almost always not the case.
There is so much we can learn from the next generation that will revolutionize our worlds. The same is true about the older generation. They have been there, and have so much more experience and often know the answers to the questions we are asking, if we would just ask and then listen.
With the bombardment of information today and diversity of thought at our fingertips, this overload of information requires discernment. You have to be willing to listen to everyone and then filter what is the best. How do I know what is best? Well, I first look for the fruit in someone’s life and ministry or business. Are they getting good results, results that I am looking to get? Are they getting those results the right way? In other words, is how they are achieving those results align with my vision and core values? If there is a clash with my personal vision, ministry vision, or a clash with my core values, that is not the best person to learn from.
Grow Your Character Capacity
You have to stay disciplined in the disciplines. And really, I have found no other way that is as effective in growing my character as establishing a regular habit of reading the Bible. I wrote about it in my book, My Victory Starts Here, the Bible Society did a survey about the power of reading the Bible 4 times a week or more and it’s affect on our habits and the results were amazing. When King David said, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” He was absolutely right.
- Take care of your private life. Growing your character capacity is a private issue with public consequences. So, are you the same person in private as you are in public? This is called integrity. If you take care of your private life, God will take care of your public life.
- Lead yourself. Are you disciplined? Discipline is the ability to lead yourself. If you can lead yourself you will be able to lead others.
Grow Your Criticism Capacity
I have discovered the difference between the highly successful leaders and what most would call the average leaders, is often not skill, it’s their ability to handle pain and criticism. I don’t think handling criticism ever gets any easier, but what we can grow is our response to that criticism. There are two ditches when it comes to handling criticism. The first ditch is the one we crawl into if we as leaders start listening to our critics too much and cater to their every whim trying to make them all happy. You will never make everyone happy. I love the quote from a famous basketball coach who said if you listen to the critics in the stands you will soon be in the stands yourself. It’s so true. The other ditch is when we don’t listen to anyone and plough ahead regardless of what people around us say. Every ounce of gold is surrounded by tons of dirt. I know this sounds contradictory, but you have to learn to study the criticisms and mine the gold, the truth in them. Sometimes you have to sift through a ton of dirt to find the ounce of gold – or a truth that could really help you and your organization.
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Grow Your Crisis Capacity
John Maxwell says “experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is the best teacher”. So when a great opportunity falls apart at the seams or when life just slaps you in the face, it’s “crisis” time.
I love what Dr. George Hill — one of my mentors — calls the crisitunity. He uses this term to let all of us know that in every crisis is an opportunity. The Chinese, Mandarin, symbol for problem is a problem combined with an opportunity. In order to find the opportunities in the crisis you have to go looking for them and it’s starts by simply asking the question, “what can we learn here?” “What can this crisis teach us?” There is always a solution. As leaders, we have to be solution minded and solution focused, not problem focused.
Grow Your Listening Capacity
In a crisis, one of the most valuable leadership skills is the ability to “read the room”. “Reading the room” challenges our listening and observation skills. Become a student of people. You have to love people and study people and to do that you have to listen and ask a lot of questions and then listen again. Too often, I am tempted to do all of the talking when I meet new people, and I have learned that before I can weigh in I need to read the room and I will only be able to read the room if I am truly listening. So learn to listen past the first level – that’s the words coming out of their mouths. I try to listen past the words and listen for the emotions. Where are their passions? Where are their fears? When I can sense those, I can decide the next course of action in the conversation.
Grow Your Vision Casting Capacity
As you grow in your leadership capacity you must develop mastery in vision casting. This requires a different capacity than just executing someone else’s vision.
For me, one of the major things I have learned over the last 10 years when it comes to vision casting is the importance of having a predetermined culture established that will gel with the vision cast. Culture trumps vision and so if the culture doesn’t jive with the vision, the culture will win out every time. And if that happens, people will stop believing you when you cast a vision. So, I have learned to be more patient in sharing vision until I am convinced the culture we’ve designed can handle it.
Grow Your Risk Taking Capacity
When a leader feels stuck at a certain level of a leadership position where they work or minister, they feel frustrated, even desperate for a change in positions. Rushing ahead is risky but so is “waiting and waiting” for that next opportunity.
Jesus said we have to be “faithful in the little things” before we can be “faithful in the big things”. When I feel stuck or trapped in a position I feel I have outgrown, I always ask myself, “have I been faithful in all of the little things where I am?” These keep me focused on doing the best I can where I’m at. Then I’ve come to realize that as leaders we always need to be growing faster than our organization. That means that we are out front and that sometimes what we are waiting for is the “rope to catch” in our organization and it will catch up to us. How do I grow my capacity to stay the course? I must discipline myself to keep growing personally regardless of how I feel and eventually the rope will catch.
Grow Your Competitiveness Capacity
Athletes grow their capacity for competition at different levels of their career. High school competition is one thing, Olympic competition is another. For leaders, growing our personal competitive edge is vital. To push ourselves beyond previous boundaries and limitations requires the capacity to compete against ourself, our history and against our previous successes.
Sometimes, you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations where the competition is greater. As a leader, I must surround myself with better leaders. If I spend all of my time with people who are the same as me or are lesser leaders, then I won’t grow as much. But, if I stretch myself to hang around leaders who are better than me, I will grow, too.
I model this with my team by taking them to mega church conferences. We want to put ourselves in situations and with people who have gone further than us so that we don’t think too highly of ourselves and so that we see how far we can still go. That always reinvigorates our competitive drive.
Grow Your Self Assessment Capacity
It is important to grow in your capacity to assess yourself. I think this happens best when I use reflective thinking – reflecting on myself and how I handled people and situations as a leader. I use these times to learn about me, my strengths and weaknesses and where my capacity limit is.
For example; I think I’m growing my capacity to make the tough call. Leading is never easy, but especially when you have to make a tough call that effects people you love, but is the obvious decision to make for the betterment of the whole. Those are never fun but are absolutely necessary. I want to be a loving and compassionate leader who is not afraid of making the tough call. That’s what I’m focused on right now.
By continually and honestly self assessing, you will highlight areas for growing your capacity in self-identity, diversity, character, criticism, crises, listening, vision casting, taking risks, competitiveness and even effective self assessments.
Dr. Daniel Goleman said that EQ or Emotional Intelligence counts for 80-90% of the factors that distinguish average from outstanding leaders. His research indicates that the higher a leader rises in an organization, the less important technical skills become, and the more important EQ becomes. IQ and technical skills are important, but emotional intelligence is vital to leadership. Emotional intelligence (EQ) generally comprises the capability to be self-aware, self-managing, interpersonally effective, stress tolerant, and optimistic. Capacity is all about EQ. If you want to lead great, and because you are listening to this podcast, I know you want to lead great – you will have to grow your capacity and EQ to do so. We need great, high capacity leaders in the church.
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