Why Becoming Is Better Than Being: How Great Leaders Stretch Themselves And Grow

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Leadership often feels like being on a lonely planet, especially in ministry. Coworkers are often friends who are also congregants, and it can be delicate to balance these relationships. And when you need to talk through leadership challenges or career advice, it’s difficult to know to whom to turn. As a result, things can sometimes get messy.

In a blog post on loneliness in ministry, Carey Nieuwhof, founding pastor of Connexus Church in Barrie, Ontario, states, “But isolation is a tool used by the enemy. When I isolate myself, I lose touch with reality, cut myself off from relationships that give life, and expose myself to risks that would never happen if I’m in authentic community.”

Loneliness or isolation are dangerous for anyone, especially when pride is the root cause. As leaders, it’s easy to have thoughts that only increase a sense of isolation:

I don’t need to talk to anyone about this. I’m strong enough to figure this out on my own.

I’m the leader, so I’m supposed to know the answer to this.

I can’t talk with anyone else about this challenge because it will make me look weak.

Thoughts like these, compounded over time, create a disconnected and lonely leader.

Earlier this year, I found myself feeling frustrated and alone. As a leader in a growing organization, there are many days where I feel like I’m at a fork in the road and I’m not sure which way to turn. As the team I lead grows and develops, it requires a new level of leadership from me that feels difficult and uncomfortable at times.

A few months ago, I made two decisions to seek coaching beyond my immediate circle of day-to-day colleagues:

  1. I joined a coaching group with other leaders in my industry
  2. I found a coach in a similar role but different industry and a step ahead of me career-wise

Both decisions have been game changers for my personal and professional development for two reasons.

First, joining a coaching group with other leaders in my industry challenged me to be vulnerable, which we all need to practice.

It’s not easy for me to be vulnerable (even this post is a bit outside of my comfort zone!). I like to be the one in the room with all the answers. But joining a coaching group with other marketing and communication leaders in the ministry world led me to a few realizations:

  • Facing new challenges is easier when you can seek wisdom from folks who have ‘been there, done that.’
  • Receiving encouragement (even when it’s uncomfortable) can be exactly what you need to break through that challenge you’re facing as a leader.
  • Bouncing new ideas off of people who understand your world can provide clarity in ways that saves you time and energy in the long-run because it makes you (and your project) better.
  • Sometimes things aren’t as hard as they seem with the proper perspective and empathy from peers and others you trust.

If you’re not in a coaching group, I cannot recommend our pastor coaching networks enough. I’m biased, but I don’t know two better coaches for pastors than Tim Stevens and David Whiting, the leaders of our coaching networks. You can read all about our Lead Pastor and Executive Pastor Coaching Networks.

Second, finding a coach in a similar role but different industry allowed me to have someone with an objective set of eyes and a different perspective to help me pinpoint what’s working and what’s not.

Whether in the ministry or the corporate world, leaders tend to get stuck in their own bubbles, habits, and routines. I was no different. A few months ago, I found myself facing a challenging leadership issue. I wanted to bounce my ideas off of a leader who was farther along than me in her career and who had a perspective outside of the ministry realm. It was refreshing to be fully transparent with another leader about career or leadership challenges. My coach helped pinpoint habits and routines that were unhelpful or unhealthy and helped me course correct.

As a leader, you have two options: a) go it alone and stagnate when the organization outgrows you or b) make an intentional decision to hold yourself accountable for growth. Tweet:

My relationship with my coach provides a level of accountability and growth to my leadership abilities that I’ve never had before. I’m accountable because I lead the topics of our conversations. My coach is there to help, which means I have to come prepared with new areas I’ve identified for my growth. It’s not comfortable and it’s not easy, but it’s one of the most significant decisions I’ve made as a leader.

It’s also helpful to have a coach who has ‘been there, done that’ when it comes to new challenges. A coach’s experience makes new challenges less scary because he or she can help guide you along the way.  

As a leader, you have two options: a) go it alone and stagnate when the organization outgrows you or b) make an intentional decision to hold yourself accountable for growth.

American businessman Harvey Firestone said, "The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” I’d add that the best leaders are always seeking opportunities to grow and develop so they can be better prepared to lead others. Take the next step in your development as a leader and seek out coaching to become the best leader you can be. You owe it to yourself. And you owe it to those you lead.

How are you embracing opportunities for your own development as a leader this year?

Still on the fence? Here's what other leaders have had to say on seeking out growth opportunities:

John Wooden (former UCLA basketball coach): "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

Carol Dweck (Stanford University professor): “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

Andrew Carnegie (American businessman): “I wish to have as my epitaph: ‘Here lies a man who was wise enough to bring into his service men who knew more than he.'"