Leadership Growth: When Our Defenses Hold Us Back

emotional intelligence Apr 30, 2024

We all love a success story, especially our own. We draw strength from our achievements and pride from our skills. But while celebrating our wins, could we miss the hidden obstacles keeping us from reaching our full potential?

Understanding the Silent Blockers

Authentic leadership is more than just focusing on what we're good at; it's also about facing the tough questions we'd prefer not to think about. What happens when we ignore those silent blockers? We risk settling into a comfortable "good enough," never discovering the extraordinary leaders we could become.

The most significant growth barriers are often the ones we dodge or resist. To truly evolve, we must push through discomfort and confront what we're most defensive about.

A Personal Story of Missed Opportunities and Realization

Years ago, I was part of a visionary group aiming to develop leaders for sustainability. We were all top-notch in our fields—published, praised, and pretty sure of our methods. When a colleague introduced a new "vertical leadership" model that focused on expanding our worldviews rather than just skills, I was skeptical but confident—sure I'd ace any assessment.

I was humbled by the results! I held a limited worldview and understanding of transformational leadership. 

Instead of embracing this result as a cue for growth, I dismissed it. I found flaws in the assessment, clashed with the colleague who introduced it, and stubbornly clung to my tried-and-tested methods.

The Cost of Holding On

Skipping ahead, I struggled to drive necessary changes in our organization a few years ago. I applied all my known strengths but faced complex challenges with mediocre results. Desperate, I revisited vertical leadership, the concept I had resisted. This time, my defenses were down. I dug deeper, engaged a coach, and saw my resistance to change as a massive barrier to effectiveness.

Embracing Continuous Growth

It's been close to a decade since that turning point. I've realized that leadership evolves constantly; we must always stay open to learning about ourselves and adapting to contemporary challenges. I still seek out new skills, but more importantly, I strive to view the world differently and understand my place in it. This shift in perspective gives me new momentum and purpose, both in life and leadership.

And about that colleague I once saw as an adversary? I contacted her to let her know of my long-overdue growth. I acknowledged how she had offered us a gift I'd almost missed. Her gracious acceptance of my apology reminded me of the power of humility.

Your Turn to Break Through

Don't let ego or defensiveness block your leadership and personal evolution. Recognize your blind spots, challenge your limitations, and embrace the discomfort that comes with growth. It's difficult but gratifying. Your ability to lead through complexity will not just improve but soar. And the freedom and exhilaration you'll experience? Worth the effort.



Stay connected with tips, tools, and updates. 

Join our mailing list for the latest tips and tools to support your leadership. 
Don't worry; your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.