Every fall kindergarteners start a cycle that they will repeat for more than 10 years. Most adults are familiar with this cycle and looking back on this cycle we can discern that we learned a valuable coping skill – being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Then why do we abandon this skill when it comes to leadership development?

Let me explain what I mean. As school aged children we entered each school year a little apprehensive because we were in unfamiliar territory.

I readily admit that, with the many, many, many definitions of leadership that exist,

it can seem pretty reckless to say that the definition of leadership sucks.

Which one of them?

Well, all of them!

Can we really act our way into being something that we are not already?

I think not, at least not for long. Sure, we can act courageously when we feel a substantial amount of fear,

but when we are an extrovert can we act like an extrovert until we eventually become one.

I think not.


We spend an estimated $24 billion a year on leadership development but leadership experts from

Harvard to Stanford question whether this extraordinary expenditure is producing better leaders.

Even with our naked eye, without the lens of a doctoral research initiative,

we can see that great leadership is in short supply.

Anyone who has seen the movie, “Finding Nemo” remembers the seagulls. “Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine” was their constant cry.

As leaders we can sometimes mimic the seagulls.

My knowledge: “Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine”

My experience: “Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine”

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

As leaders it is more difficult to engage in meaningful self-development if we don’t know what we’re after. Develop what? Why?

How do we determine our purpose (or purposes; it’s okay to have more than one) as a leader? May I suggest that purpose is often found at the intersection of What I’m Passionate About Street and What I’m Good At Boulevard.

For example, I am passionate about helping leaders translate their vision into reality.

Don’t you hate when people say that to you? Yeah, me too; almost as much as I hate saying it J

This blog definitely falls into that category. The starting point for leading ourselves is taking care of ourselves. This is a growth area for me especially in regards to the topic of this blog – taking regular days off from our work.

Unfortunately, it is rare that I am not engaged in some form of work on my days off. To be more intentional about time off if might be helpful to keep the following in mind.

I have bought my share of books on how to become a good leader. Almost certainly they contained nuggets of wisdom; but by necessity, those books contained cookie-cutter approaches because they are designed to be generally applicable.

In addition, I grew up as a leader looking for role models (and buying books by and about them). For a while I believed that my best path to success as a leader was to emulate my role models.

Thus, my default setting when equipping leaders was to ask them to do what I was doing,

I’ve been a part of so many strategic planning efforts that follow the same pattern that includes, but unfortunately is not limited to:

  • A multi-day offsite with the organization’s leaders that includes reviewing mounds of previously generated research and background data, e.g., SWOT analysis,
  • revisiting or creating vision, mission, values statements, and determining critical success factors, goals, etc.

Any internet search of “leadership quotes” will invariably produce quotes that reflect the idea that leadership is about making a difference.

From Brainyquote.com: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -- John Quincy Adams

From Inc.com: "You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply,

What are the three steps to becoming a millionaire? First, get a million dollars! I thought of this old Steve Martin joke as I thought about what it takes for us to become a trusted advisor. First, become trustworthy.

Being a trusted advisor is critical if we are to influence our bosses to good outcomes (aka managing up). So how do we become trusted advisors?

Be Credible. One of the best ways to be trusted is to be credible. Do we make excuses? Do we avoid accountability?

Would you like to be an even better leader? Then be a better you.

Seems simple enough but a big hurdle to any of us becoming better is a lack of self-knowledge or self-awareness.

“Self-knowledge”, said Baltasar Gracian, a Spanish Jesuit and philosopher. “Is the beginning of self-improvement.” It is also a part of better leadership.

“People who have the self-awareness of an intentional strong identity,” says Stedman Graham.