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  • Kathleen Phelps

Leading for Growth (or Evolution is Not Optional)

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“…one of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects.”

Nikola Tesla

I was recently at a yoga and retreat center in Western Massachusetts to ostensibly ‘get ahead’ on my blog posts. Committed to letting my creativity loose by brainstorming different topics related to leadership (stay tuned for ‘Leading with an Invisibility Cloak’), I revisited some of the content I’d written for the Energy Spring Leadership website a couple of years ago.

Describing our clients, I said they were “committed to deepening their capacity to lead the way forward, and to creating the future they know is possible.” These two attributes are key to successful and sustainable leadership.

A recent C-level client reminded me of this when reflecting on his coaching engagement. He said “I was looking for a quick fix. Instead I experienced the personal growth that I needed.”

Deepening the Capacity to Lead the Way Forward

What does personal development look like in the context of leadership? How do you deepen your leadership capacity? You’ve heard this before: by getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks, experimenting. Easy to say, harder to do.

A technical leader I work with in health care creates ‘experiments’. On a quest to improve relationships with an organizational function that is integral to her team’s success, she has heightened her awareness of what is going well and the people who are trying their best. She acknowledges the effort by sending an email to the team or their boss, or by actually picking up the phone to say thanks.

This virtuous cycle creates goodwill and trust across the team, makes both her and recipient feel great, and makes leading the way forward easier, and more satisfying.

Time and again, I have seen executives push out of their comfort zones in ways that may not seem huge to anyone else, yet the internal choices and shifts they make, the new lenses through which they choose to view the world make all the difference. Acting with focused intention (see last post) and deliberate awareness always leads to growth.

Creating the Future You Know is Possible

Sustainable leadership is an interesting paradox that requires being fully attuned to where your organization is in the present, while consciously acting in ways that align with your future vision.

This can be difficult in Western corporations where there is often intense focus and pressure on quarterly results. When I coach executives from around the world at a renowned business school, the difference in cultural perspectives is striking.

Many non North American leaders, though they have a clear sense of their current state, are concerned with what happens long after they are gone. They see the primary role of leadership as creating conditions in the present– including environments where there is trust, mutual support, and a commitment to quality and customers–as a means to creating the future they know as possible.

They build strong foundations while always moving towards their vision. When fully aligned with a greater purpose and potential, they don’t have to push to get there. The future pulls them up to meet it.

How are you evolving to lead the way forward? What future is calling you, and how do you lead so that you find it?

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