In the fifteen years that we have been providing The Complete Leader training program, we have discovered something: the traditional bell curve applies when it comes to how purposeful people are in their pursuit of leadership development. And, in a 1:1 correspondence, the bell curve also applies to how successful those same people are as leaders and in their careers. That is why, if you want to achieve success, it is important to assess where you are on the “leading on purpose” bell curve.
Let’s discuss what we mean by “leading on purpose.” Excellent, skilled leaders approach the development of their leadership skills very seriously. They take the opportunity to learn from experts, study best practices, and attend seminars … and they constantly practice what they learn until they “get it right.” They demonstrate the same dedication as athletes training for sports competitions, or musicians rehearsing for a demanding performance.
Also, just like athletes and musicians, great leaders never assume they have “arrived.” They are continuous learners, always seeking new ways to improve and refine their skills. They have the humility to listen: to really hear what is being said, process it, and accept the fact that they may need to change.
As we engage people in The Complete Leader, we consistently find that participants fall into three categories. On one end of the bell curve are the “all in” participants. These are the people who are super-engaged during training sessions. They share their experiences, ask questions, take part in discussions, bring their challenges to the table, and immediately start applying the tools they learn in the workplace.
Invariably, we see these people experience great success. They are regarded as outstanding leaders and their teams deliver high performance. Promotions are the norm rather than the exception. These are people who are 100% “leading on purpose.”
At the other end of the bell curve are the people who come to training sessions with a closed mind and a grumbling attitude. They are resistant to the concept of leadership development and consider the whole thing to be bunk and a waste of time. And, candidly, it is a waste of time … for them. They contribute nothing to sessions and take nothing away from the training. If they are physically present, they are often mentally “checked out” – and they frequently physically check out, too, leaving the room multiple times during each session.
Ironically, these are the people who complain that the training doesn’t work – but, when asked if they applied the principles, will state, “Of course not! Why should I? It won’t work anyway.” Their circular reasoning becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!
Now, let’s turn to the largest group of participants – those who represent the “hump” of the bell curve. We call this group “cafeteria” participants. These people are quite engaged in training sessions. They add value to the class. They learn and they grow.
Here comes the “but.”
But, they are more selective about applying the tools and principles they learn. They approach leadership development like a cafeteria: they pick what they like and leave the rest on the counter. For instance, they might be uncomfortable applying the VOMP model in conflict resolution, choosing instead to retreat into conflict avoidance. Or, they don’t want to engage in re-directing feedback, so they let team issues fester. Or, they don’t want to flex their leadership style because they would rather just keep doing what they’re doing.
This group experiences a certain level of success, as do their teams, but their outcomes are not as powerful as the “all in” group. They have limited their learning, so they limit their results.
With all this in mind, where do you fall on the bell curve when it comes to “leading on purpose”?
- Are you “all in”? If so, keep doing what you’re doing!
- Are you a grumbler? If so, you need to exchange your fixed mindset for a learning mindset – right now. Trust me, it will turn your career around!
- Are you a “cafeteria” leader? If so, ramp it up to become “all in”! You can’t be a great leader if you pick and choose what you want to do or act based on what you are comfortable doing. You become a great leader when you practice great leadership: all the time, every day, in every situation. That is “leading on purpose,” and it works.
Remember, you can shift your place on the “leading on purpose” bell curve. It’s time to get “all in”!