Doug Dickerson is a writer and speaker and the director of Management Moment Leadership Services. I’ve enjoyed his work and asked him to share a guest blog with my readers. You can read more of his columns on the web here.
In his book, The 360° Leader, John Maxwell shares a humorous story of a turkey that was chatting with a bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.”
“Well,” replied the bull, “why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings? They’re packed with nutrients.”
The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally, after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. But he was promptly spotted by a hunter, who shot him out of the tree.
The moral of the story: BS might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.”
Growing to the top is about reaching your full potential as a person regardless of where you are within the organizational structure. Allow me to share a few thoughts on growing to the top.
Bloom where you are planted. While aspiration is a great motivator, be careful not to fall into the trap of looking beyond what destiny requires of you today.
When Pablo Casals reached 95, a young reporter asked him, “Mr. Casals, you are 95 years old and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” Casals replied, “Because I think I am making progress.” Progress as a leader is made when you bloom where you are planted and remain faithful in the small things.
Learn all you can. A wise leader is on a quest to learn all he can. Henry Ford said, “Life is a series of experiences, each of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”
Leaders embrace learning through books, mentors, colleagues, and competitors. You can learn without leading, but you can never lead without learning.
Make yourself useful to others. You grow as a leader when you invest in the lives of others. The mark of a true leader is not in what he takes but in what he gives.
Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” A leader grows when he helps others grow.
Set high expectations. Langston Hughes said, “I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
When you set high expectations as a leader you are committing yourself to growing beyond where you are today to become who you want to be tomorrow.