Episode 191: 4 Barriers to Leadership Growth and What You Can Do About It

August 17, 2021

Growth mindset leaders want to be challenged.” Carol Dweck

Growth happens when there is enough challenge and support offered to a leader. When there is too much or too little of either element, growth doesn’t happen. Instead, leaders experience stagnation, uncertainty, overwhelm, and/or coddling. If you’re not growing as a leader, it’s likely there’s an imbalance in the challenge and support around you. That imbalance leads to experiencing one of these four barriers. 

At the end of the day, learning leaders want to be challenged.  Because they believe in the potential for people to grow, they need opportunities that stretch their talents, skills, and capacity. 

What We’re NOT Saying

Before we go much farther, let’s be clear. We’re not saying, leaders with a growth mindset want to experience challenging people or circumstances. No. Challenging people, personalities, and crises can lead to growth, but, they’re not essential for growth. 

Instead, learning leaders want the challenge of a new opportunity, a new skill, or a new experience. Balanced with support, these experiences bring about growth. 

Three Ways to Overcome the Barriers

If you find yourself up against the four barriers we mentioned above (stagnation, uncertainty, overwhelm or coddling), here are three ways you can proceed. This isn’t an exhaustive list. Instead, it’s a place to begin to explore and find the sweet spot for you and the people you lead. 

Build relationships

First, build relationships. If you’re saying, “I’ve known them for 7 years at this point.” That’s ok. Simply because you’ve been around someone in the same office or on the same team doesn’t mean you have a relationship. If that was an “ouch,” pause for a minute and reflect on the people on your team. What can you tell me about them? What experiences have you shared together? Have inside jokes emerged? If you were asked to write a recommendation for them, could you identify their strengths, passions, interests? Sometimes we assume relationships exist because of proximity. Instead of making this assumption, here’s an invitation to get intentional about building relationships.

Explore Adding Support

Second, explore what support looks like. Or how you or the people you lead need to be challenged. While there likely won’t be easy answers, what you may find is a place to explore, reflect, and experiment. 

Ask for What You Need

Third, ask for what you need. The people you lead and the people who lead the teams you’re on are not mind readers. That may seem like an obvious statement. Here’s why it’s important if you’re not being challenged or experiencing the support you desire: resentment can emerge when people are not getting what they need. Without articulating your needs, the people around you don’t have an opportunity to respond. You have an opportunity to be an adult, to embody leadership, and take responsibility for naming your needs. 

Write it Down/ Talk it Out

  1. Think about a current project or task you’re working on. 
    1. Where are you on the challenge/support grid? 
    2. What needs to change? 
    3. Who do you need to ask for support? 
    4. How would you like to be challenged?
  2. Ask one of the leaders on your team to name where they’re at on the challenge/support grid. Remember, if learning leaders want to be challenged – it’s for growth’s sake, not simply to be challenged.