Leadership is about Growth

By Gary Clayton

Episode 043

There is growth and there is decline. Staying the same is not an option. (Johnson & Johnson, pg. 208).

That is a very powerful thought from Joining Together, a widely used textbook on teams and leadership. Remember that you and your brain are changing every day: there is no staying the same. So, which do you choose, growth or decline? If you want growth, then you better find a leader to follow towards growth - or better yet, become a leader yourself. Otherwise, you are in the process of decline.

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When I look out my windows, I see thick and lively woods surrounding my house. The trees are always striving to grow: that is their nature. I like the fact that they grow, it creates beauty and reinforces the life of the woods and the animals that depend on the woods. Yet I don’t want the growth of the trees to interfere with my house, lawn, driveway or patio. Therefore, I cut off branches that extend into my protected area. That is called management. It is the blocking or limiting of growth. I manage the vegetation on my property by pruning and even killing plants that I feel are out of place.

What does leadership look like in this example? Again, leadership is about growth. In my woods, leadership is about providing optimal amounts of fertilizer, water and drainage. Add the air, sunlight and dirt that comes for free and I have all the elements necessary to achieve exuberant growth.

What is your organization’s orientation? Is it going for growth or decline? Do competitors seem to be passing it by? Or is it keeping stride with and maybe even passing both old and new competitors?

Continuing to lead is tough for some fundamental reasons. It’s easy for leaders to lose their sense of competitiveness and urgency, especially as they achieve goals that once seemed lofty. It’s easy for the organization’s vision to become stale, as yesteryear’s hot idea becomes today’s industry norm. It’s also easy to lose track of the fact that leadership is a process that must be employed continuously for growth to continue.

Keep Leadership Going

History provides us with many examples of leaders that stayed focused on leading – and many more examples of leaders who forgot to keep the leadership going. There are five major issues that must be faced to keep the leadership process going:
1. Challenge the status quo by leading members toward enhancing their expertise so bureaucratic control is not attractive
2. Create a shared vision of what the organization should be; a vision that is believable and achievable so it can inspire the members.
3. Empower the members through cooperative teamwork. That encourages each member to contribute by applying his or her skills and insight to the challenges confronting the organization
4. Lead by example through cooperative team procedures and taking risks to increase the organization’s expertise. This allows the organization to be more productive with less direct management and respond more rapidly to environmental disturbances.
5. Inspire members to embrace the journey and improve their skills so quality continues to climb and needed skills are readily available. This helps reduce member.ytxds6 turnover and ensures organizational knowledge and individual skills can be applied quickly to emerging challenges.

However the leadership process is defined in your organization, it must structured so these five issues are addressed regularly and frequently. Otherwise, management becomes the norm and decline is inevitable.

What do you see in your organization? Do the people in charge lead or manage? Are they enabling the organization and individuals to grow or are they stifling growth? If your organization is stifling growth, what can you do to change it?


Johnson & Johnson (2003). Joining Together:group theory and group skills (8th edition). New York, Allyn and Bacon.

Kouzes & Posner (1987). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Gary Clayton is a leadership coach and speaker who empowers CEOs, executives and project leaders to achieve greater success in business and life.

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Categories : Qualities & Skills