What’s In A Name?

Having made the decision (described in the prior post) to blog on a regular basis, it seems appropriate that I offer a word or two of explanation about the name Growing Leaders.

Growing Leaders is a double entendre (without the lasciviousness). In this context, the word “growing” is meant to suggest two discrete yet interrelated understandings of leadership: (1) Leaders must enhance their own skill sets and talents to be effective over time. In other words, they themselves must become “growing leaders;” and (2) Leaders must invest in and enable the leadership of others, “growing leaders” along the way.

For too many people in positions of authority, leadership is often understood as the culmination of a journey, now ended. The commitment to ongoing learning, continued experimentation and risk-taking, evanesces as rank obviates the need for personal growth. For these people, leadership is a fixed destination, a reward of sorts, not a continual process. Conflating leadership with rank is a prescription for failure. The Hebrew word for leader is manhig, from a three-letter root (N-H-G) meaning behavior. Leadership then, is about behavior not position in the organizational chart; it is a self-renewing growth process. Hence, growing leaders are leaders committed to expanding their knowledge and virtuosity, pushing themselves to new heights.

For others, even those serious about advancing and enhancing their own competencies, leading rarely includes thinking about the potential in others. Too many focus energies on expanding their own opportunities and talents, oblivious to the nurturing, training, and preparation of those who come next. At the end of his career, Moses understood the importance of paving the way for Joshua. He knew that, as Peter Drucker said, “There is no success without a successor.” In his book Winning, former GE Chairman, Jack Welch affirmed a similar sentiment, observing that, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you are a leader, success is about growing others.”

In subsequent postings I hope to focus on growing leaders in the two ways I describe above. To the degree that many Americans are more trepidatious than ever before about the future of our government, the knowledge that some might be willing to improve their own leadership skills, ought provide some semblance of comfort. And as many corporate and social sector leaders contemplate the future of their organizations, a commitment to growing the leadership of those who will lead the next generation remains a key component of the work incumbents must do.

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Read my fomer blog The Leading Edge Previously published on JUF.org

Hal Lewis