Leadership and the Art of Evolution

This baby elephant can grow into a big leader someday.

This baby elephant can grow into a big leader someday.

Leadership is Personal

There are about a gazillion listicles (3 Qualities of Leaders; 10 Things Leaders Can Learn from Elephants; etc...) about leadership. Much has been, and will continue to be, written about, listed about, thought about leadership. 

But something that is utterly true, not list-friendly, and just straight up hard?

The art of personal evolution.

Leadership Demands Constant Personal Improvement

I've spent a lot of my life in leadership positions. I've learned three things (listicle!): 

1. Natural Talent Can Take You Only So Far

You might be a natural born leader. Fun! You can use your talent to get started and rock a few good leadership roles. You might take the lead on class projects, you might be a good manager, you might be able to naturally communicate well and inspire people. However, without refinement, your talent will only get you so far - and you will get to a place in your leadership journey where the demands upon you outstrip your abilities.

2. Leadership Skills Development Can Get You a Bit Further

You can learn a lot of good things about leadership! You can learn about how to make better plans, how to get people aligned more effectively, how to develop others, and all kinds of great things from leadership books, workshops, courses, coaching, etc...This is all very helpful and important. Many leaders employ the skills they learn to their work and this can be enough to get them to a decent level of leadership performance. Most leaders, though, face a point where their skills and talents are stretched to the breaking point - struggle, failure and difficulty ensue. A lot of people give up here. The next step is the hardest.

3. Excellent Leaders Are Committed to Becoming Better People

Being a "better person" is difficult. It means facing your shortcomings head-on, soliciting and integrating feedback, honestly looking at your performance, your attitudes, your communication, and the way you manage and trust others. It means taking inventory of your motivations - your insecurities - your habits...and being vulnerable enough to admit you can always improve. Know yourself, and seek to become your best self. Be willing to take the risk and admit you are not perfect. Be courageous enough to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, and listen to them. 

That's step one to changing the world.