When I was in college I read the book Great Leaders Grow by Kenneth H Blanchard for the first time.  It was the first time in my life that I can remember feeling overwhelmingly inspired to become a great leader. I knew that in many of the circles that I found myself in, that I often emerged as the leader. This was exciting to me, but I had no idea how it happened or even how to navigate it well. There was no hope (or intention for that matter) of retaining my place as a leader in any place I earned the role.

Then came Kenneth H Blanchard. In a very simple way, he shares about leadership longevity and how to achieve it. I won’t quote you the whole book, but there was a quote that reshaped my approach to leadership and legacy building. In the book, Mr. Blanchard wrote that “Growth is a leaders fountain of youth”. This wasn’t new information to me. It was just stated in a way that stuck!

“Growth is a leaders fountain of youth.” – Kenneth H Blanchard

The Cost of Coffee

As leaders, whether of ourselves or others, we have a responsibility to stay relevant. It is our job to be informed about how times are changing and learn what needs to change with it and stay ahead of it. This means we need to find a consistent and hopefully cheap way to grow! Now we can look into costly classes, impersonal podcasts, or even building a library of leadership books we may find the time to read eventually. None of these are bad, but rarely do they work out to be consistent or cost effective long term.

“As leaders, it is our job to stay informed about how times are changing and learn what needs to change with it and stay ahead of it.”

Starbucks Coffee

This is where we get to the cost of a cup of coffee. A decent cup of coffee may cost you about $3.00 depending on where you go. I know that a freshly brewed Venti at Starbucks is currently about $2.45. Now you and I are both aware there are people in our lives that we can learn from. People who are either exactly where we want to be or heading in the same direction and just happen to be a little ahead of us. Don’t ignore those people!

I’ve found that cheapest and most consistent growing experiences available to us is a cup of coffee with someone more experienced than us. Someone who doesn’t mind allowing us to learn from their experience so that we can go further, faster. A few minutes over a cup of coffee could have saved me thousands of dollars in a bad business move as an artist last year, but I chose to learn the hard way. Never again!

“I’ve found that the cheapest, and most consistent way to keep growing is getting a cup of coffee with someone who will let you learn from their experiences, good or bad.”

Don’t get me wrong, I listen to leadership podcasts, audiobooks, read physical books and more. However, there’s value to being able to ask situation-specific questions and get real-life experience answers. Also, it’s important to be able to get objective feedback on a risky decision from someone who knows where you want to go and how to help you get there.

“Growing is sometimes as simple as getting a better handle on an area of life that seems to always get the best of you.”

I must confess that I’m not actually a “coffee” kind of guy, but I really enjoy a hot cup of tea. So this is my suggestion, take the initiative to grab someone you know you can grow from and grab a cup of coffee (or tea) together and ask them the tough questions. Get a better insight on different aspects of life. Work, play, relationships. Prepare specific questions that are tied to the areas you’re determined to grow in and don’t forget, pay for their coffee! It’s the least we can do for the time their giving to us.

So if you can’t afford to attend the next John Maxwell Conference, or personally meet with Andy Stanley then let this be another option for you or in addition to those.

THE POCKET POTENTIAL

If growth is a leaders fountain of youth, then we need to make sure we secure an inexpensive and consistent means of continual growth. Paying for one or two cups of coffee a month for someone we can learn and grow from is by far one of the most accessible and cheap methods to keep growing today.

  1. Grab yourself a Joe (or Pete, or Sarah, or whatever the person’s name is) and ask them to commit to meeting with you once (or twice) a month for at least 3 months.
  2. Have questions ready for them and be prepared to learn.
  3. Finally, check back here after the three months and let me know how it went!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, be sure to share it with a friend and follow this blog by signing up with your email so you’ll never miss a post. Also, if you have other ideas about great practices of self-leadership leave a comment! I’d love to learn from you!

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“There’s no in team.” At least that’s how the saying goes. It’s a saying that was always unsettling to me, but I never really thought about challenging it before. I never saw it’s connection to poor leadership. Actually, for a long time, I thought it was just my ever out-of-check pride that wanted some attention. It felt like I was the only one with a problem that the “I” was getting tossed to the side for the sake of the “we”. When the “I” was supposed to work hard for the success of the “we”. See my dilemma?

Losing the I in the We

This subtle but growing tension inside me kept swelling. I became secretly critical of team leaders and wondered if many of them really knew what they were doing. Some “Christian” I am, right? But, truth is truth and this was a real issue for me. I wanted to be certain that wherever I was, that I was being led well.

Over time I learned that this was not an individual issue. There are others who are tired and frustrated with being neglected for “we” and then expected to perform at 110% on an “I” level for the sake of we. Point is, there are more people who are looking for a place where they would be nurtured as a part of the team. Not discarded or overlooked by poor leadership in the name of corporate success.

Jesus and the Eye

Now, having been a Christian for a little while I knew that God had to have something to say about this. So I went searching through the pages of the Bible and lo and behold, a solution to my problem!

In Matthew Chapter 7, verses 3 to 5 Jesus makes a statement that I think many of us, Christian or not, know by heart. In this passage, Jesus is addressing the legalistic spiritual leaders of his day. Most of them were well-known for being extremely judgemental of other people’s relationship with God but Jesus was not having it. He very directly and sharply reprimanded this behavior.

This is what he said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but does not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matt. 7:3-5 ESV

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

In this context, Jesus is specifically talking about legalistically judging the spiritual walk of others in a demeaning or prideful way. The big idea was that how you judge others in this context, you will also be judged by God.

“Rarely, if ever, did I stop to ask if I was a good leader, or more specifically, am I a good leader of me?”

Are You under Poor Leadership?

For such a long time I had been so focused on being led well that the only things I was able to see were the gaps in other people’s leadership skills. Rarely, if ever, did I stop to ask if I was a good leader, and more specifically, am I a good leader of me? I was picking at the speck in other people’s leadership but ignorant of the log of my poor self-leadership.

This is my bottom line: Great team-players are committed self-leaders. They recognize that a personal commitment to healthy self-leadership of “I” will result in less frustration and more success with “we“.

Being a team leader myself at the moment, this couldn’t be a more pertinent truth. I currently lead a team of about 30 people that is still growing. My team is dynamic and fluid. Ranging from college students to those who are old and wise enough to replace me if needed. I learned quickly that if I am going to lead my team well, I need to learn to lead me well. No one else is going to take responsibility for my personal growth and development, that is my job.

Our growth in time management, physical fitness, psychological and emotional balance, spiritual maturity, or even healthy dietary habits, all of which are essential to longevity in anything we do, is never going to be someone else’s responsibility(or priority). Not to mention the need to attain or sharpen the skills necessary for the particular career or field of work we’re in or desire to be in. It’s vital then, that we make sure these needed skills are on our radar and are in good health and growing consistently. The more efficient we are at leading ourselves, the more effective we become at leading others.

The Principle of Self-Leadership

“I learned quickly that if I am going to lead my team well, I need to learn to lead me well.”

What’s also great about this, is that it’s what I would like to call a life principle. Meaning, it’s transferable to other areas of life. Whether you’re hoping to improve your relationship with friends, family, spouse, colleagues, classmates or business partners, this principle is applicable. Wherever we function as an individual part of a larger team, we can employ the principle of self-leadership. It will reduce frustration and increase the success of the whole.

When I think about this principle, I often think about people like Lebron James, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Or Ben Roethlisberger, who is the current Quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Great athletes like Lebron and Ben, understand this principle well because it is necessary to achieve greatness in team sports. Poor leadership gets you fired in these arenas! These athletes commit to intense personal practice regiments in order grow as an asset to the team they belong to. When every team member shares this personal commitment, you’ve got a championship winning team.

“Great team players are committed self leaders.”

Where To Begin

So what’s next? How do we even begin to lead ourselves and overcome poor leadership? I suggest this simple activity you can use to begin so that you can achieve more success and reduce frustration.

This year I made an internal commitment to personal leadership and growth for the sake of others. This internal commitment has externally reshaped how I approach life, work, relationships and even leisure. I’m not suggesting you make the same commitment but I’ll share a key thing I did to get started. This activity will give you more clarity in how (and where) to begin to lead yourself. My hope is also to spark something inside of you that gets you going in a direction you’re excited about.

For this practice, you’ll need to create a three column – three-row document. Whether is a notebook or on a computer, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you’ll see it regularly.

Column 1

In this column, you’ll need to write down three areas of life where you’re a part of a “team”. I suggest three so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. You can tackle more if you want. These areas can include family, work, a volunteer team, or an organization that you lead as a part of team.

  1. Example 1: Family (Relationship with wife)
  2. Example 2: Work

Column 2

Use this column to identify and note one major area you need to grow in or be better led in. An area where your poor leadership is apparen – whether internal or external.

  1. Example 1: Family (Relationship with wife) –  “I want a more fun relationship with my wife.”
  2. Example 2: Work – “We need better training on how to use the new software.”

Column 3

This column is for you to write down what you can do to provide better leadership for yourself. This can include reading a book, taking a class, watching tutorials, finding a mentor, or just asking better questions.

  1. Example 1: Family (Relationship with wife) – “I can purchase a book on how to plan more creative dates.” (Or google it and find great ideas on Pinterest!)
  2. Example 2: Work – “I can find some tutorials on YouTube and share with my coworkers what I pick up.” or “I can ask Joe, who installed it if he’d be willing to walk me through it over lunch.”

THE POCKET POTENTIAL

The Pocket Potential for today:  If you’re frustrated with how you’re being led or really need to have more success in working with others, it may be time to take a look at how well you’re leading yourself. Poor leadership can be internal or external. Remembering that great team players are committed leaders of themselves. They have a personal commitment to self-leadership so that they can gain greater success with others. Unlock the potential of your team, personal relationships or organization by applying this principle daily.

How to Make it Count

Write it down – Don’t do this in your head. Our memories may be great, but let’s be real, they’re not that amazing. And if you’re like me, it just straight up sucks.

Be honest with you – This exercise isn’t to see how great or horrible we are. It’s also not meant to be shared with everyone. It’s about identifying how we can become greater than we are. In order to do that we have to take an objective look at where growth is needed. If necessary, find a trusted friend and ask them to provide feedback on areas where you can grow.

Plan with dates – Make a plan, put it somewhere you’ll see it and make sure you have deadlines! Set dates to start, dates to check in, and of course dates to celebrate. However you choose to do it, just make sure you put it on the calendar!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to share it with a friend and follow this blog by signing up with your email so you never miss a post. Also, if you have other ideas about great practices of self-leadership leave a comment. I’d love to learn from you!

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