When we coach founders on their way to becoming CEOs, we are working with a specific leadership role model – the growth leader. Growth leaders are leaders who make their companies places where people can realize their potential and grow. Together, they create momentum that grows continuously and becomes faster and faster. The result is impactful, organic growth for everyone in the company and the company itself.
You Become a Growth Leader by Developing These Four “Talents”:
- A big dream. You want to achieve something incredible and grow beyond your expectations. With your dream, you inspire customers and co-workers and create an environment that’s full of energy.
- An open heart. You are a human being not a superhero, you have strengths and weaknesses. You meet people on an equal footing and you see them for the complex humans they are. You create a culture infused with trust and you use your empathy to build a high-performing team.
- A strong back. You have integrity and you speak your mind. A crisis doesn’t throw you off-balance. You pursue your goals with persistence. You trust your team with responsibilities which you assign them systematically. You energize your team and you make sure that you don’t run out steam yourself.
- You evolve. You know that your company only grows if you everyone grows, both professionally and personally. For that reason, you invest into personal and personnel development.
In your company, you bring these four talents to the table and lead it into becoming a growth leader company. Growth leader companies are unique companies with big dreams. With their strong back, they survive the worst crises and even emerge stronger than before. Their open heart draws the best of the best to the team and makes the company a lovebrand among its customers. Ultimately, it’s the company who learn who also grow beyond the wildest expectations.
That’s no accident. Your company mirrors your personality. It becomes a growth leader company if you have the mindset of a growth leader.
“The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes. They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.“ – Jim Collins
So, How Exactly Does That Work And How Can You Develop These Talents?
Growth leaders know what motivates them, they know their “Why”, and they have a dream: To achieve something incredible with their companies. Growth leaders align their whole company around the big dream. It provides guidance and is the bar for all decisions.
Growth leaders know that they can’t achieve their big dream on their own. For that reason, they gather a team of like-minded customers and co-workers – their dreamteam. Growth leaders see customers and co-workers as the people they are and inspire them with value propositions that fit their needs. They clearly communicate their dreams and passionately invite everyone to go with them on the journey to realize that dream.
Growth leaders realize their dreams with a high performance standard and the will to succeed. Their team is focused due to a clear strategy and ambitious goals. The growth leader’s expecations are transparent and understandable. Everyone in the teams knows where the company is headed and what their contribution to the journey is. Growing companies often undergo constant transformation. Growth leaders know the challenges intrinsic to these growth phases and deal with them at the right time with the right focus. They help their team to understand the transformation. That way, they create a sense of security during a time of uncertainty.
How Do You Lead the Company With a Big Dream?
Your company’s big dream is your most crucial leadership tool. Only those who understand the journey’s destination can take on responsibilities and make decisions – independent from you and your specific instructions. That way, you create a culture of growth, a culture where everyone is focused and works responsibly towards achieving the big dream. You can only develop the big dream for your company if you know what motivates you. What is important to you? What do you want your life to mean? From that understanding, you can derive the big dream for the company you and your co-workers are running.
Your company’s big dream is not only your personal dream. That would mean the dream is falling way short. By developing the big dream for your company, you also intensely think about the needs of your customers. What do they really need? What can we do for them? And you take into account the needs of your co-workers. “What kind of company do I want to work for?” is one of the core questions that growth leaders have to face.
2. Open Heart
Growth leader are humble people. They know that they can’t do everything on their own and actively ask for help. Like orchestra conductors, they lead “with the back to the audience” – the applause after the concert goes to the team, not to them as individual leaders. That way, they show respect and appreciation for their team. They always deal with people on equal footing. They see the people’s potential, their readiness to work hard, and their capabilities. They know that the best results are achieved in diverse teams.
People can only grow and give their best, when they feel secure. By establishing clear-cut structures, growth leaders create a reliable environment. Strong relationships foster a climate of trust and connectedness. This trust is also built by radical honesty, openness, and transparency. Problems and conflicts can always be discussed out in the open. Growth leaders know exactly that growth is a team effort. Team performance always comes before individual performance for the growth leader. They actively support the creation of a high-performing team. Together with a strong, diverse leadership team, they daily live and breathe intercompany work.
How Do You Foster an Open Heart?
You’ll only find an open heart for others if you can have an open heart for yourself. Get to know yourself, appreciate yourself. Even your weaknesses. That will give you a foundation to deal authentically with people and to appreciate them in all their diversity. Take the time to get to know the people in your team. See them as people not as cogs in a machine. Build trust and safety – both for yourself and the other. That’s the best foundation for working and growing together.
Invest time into building real teams. In a real team, people solve problems together and support each other in the process of learning. Your most important team is your leadership team which complements both your strengths and your weaknesses perfectly. Define the tasks of your leadership team, get the right people for the job, and forge a bond between them. Take care that every challenge you face together serves to strengthen the team. Create a growth culture that is founded on deep relationships, radical honesty, and diversity.
3. Strong Back
A clear moral compass is a growth leader’s backbone. They embody their values with discipline and even remain credible when they demand that people adhere to these values. Everyone is measured with the same measure: the growth leaders themselves, co-workers, and customers. A breach of these values and principles is met with a no-compromise-attitude. Resilience is the growth leaders’ superpower. They remain level-headed even in difficult situations and create a sense of safety for their team. They don’t even give up when the goal can only be accomplished with much effort. In the end, that is how they forge an organization that remains flexible in critical situations but doesn’t lose sight of the big dream.
Growth leaders believe in the people in their teams and make them strong. They lead their co-workers into assuming responsibilities autonomously and help them grow. With their positive energy, they motivate their teams. With the help of good energy management, they consistently plug energy leaks – both in their teams and in themselves. Growth leaders take care to retain their balance because they know that’s the only way they can be their best selves.
How Do You Foster a Strong Back?
The backbone of your strong back is your personal energy management. You know what boosts your energy and how to fill up that tank and what your energy leaks are and how to plug them, if possible. You know the dangers of exhaustion and make sure that you never get into dangerous burnout territory. Because in that place you are no longer approachable as a human being and you can no longer lead your team in any useful capacity.
You help your co-workers develop a strong back if you learn to trust them with responsibility. With every challenge they master, their trust into themselves will grow and accordingly their capacity to face down ever bigger challenges.
You strengthen your team by helping to resolve conflicts productively in a way that leads to consensus. All of you will propel your company forward by having clearly defined goals, clear parameters, and clear-cut timing. The core virtues of your growth culture are disciplined focus and taking on responsibility autonomously. Both virtues are downpayments on the strong back that your company is going to develop.
4. Evolve Beyond Your Expectations
Growth leaders have excellent self-perception and consistently work on bettering themselves. They learn from feedback which they gather regularly. They are curious about all issues pertaining to leadership. In that regard, they look to the best and use their obervations to forge their own path. Growth leaders invest a substantial part of their time into helping others with their development. They provide others both with positive and with developmental feedback; they are coaches to their co-workers.
What Does That Mean For You?
You take leading yourself very seriously. Because you know: Only those who can lead themselves, can lead others. You can’t expect others to do, what you yourself aren’t able to embody.
Ideally, you start your journey from founder to CEO by taking stock of yourself; a comprehensive 360° feedback. You learn to understand yourself: your dreams, your values, your strengths, your vices, the things that energize you, and the things that sap your strength. Using this new understanding of yourself, you come up with a development plan on how to improve your leaderships qualities. You pursue this plan with the same dedication that you use for company goals. That way, you take responsibility for yourself and you become a role model for your team. Ideally, you don’t hide your transformation process but commit to it openly and transparently, especially in front of your team. Because nothing is more shameful than breaking a promise that you have made to someone else.
Continuous learning is the core virtue of growth culture. You make sure that your company becomes an organization that learns, on all levels. In individual coaching sessions, you take a lot of time to listen to the feedback and the coaching of your co-workers. Using team retrospectives, you can have a “state of the union” concerning your team and learn how you can become better at what you do.
As a company, you meditate upon your successes with the same dedication that you apply to your failures: what happened there, what can we do better in the future? Humbly, you learn from the best: What are they doing better than us? What are our competitors doing, what happens in other industries? And you take stock regularly about the consequences of the newest trends: What do you need to learn to remain extraordinary in another future and grow beyond your own expectations?
If you yourself become a growth leader with your big dream, an open heart, a strong back, and the readiness to evolve beyond your expectations, you will also build a company with these characteristics. Your transformation will become the basis for your company’s transformation. Because companies are always a mirror of their leadership, their founders, or their CEO.
About the Author
With her holistic leadership model, Dorothea von Wichert-Nick helps founders and executive manager to create real and impactful growth – both for their companies and for the people within the teams. The participants of her workshops are founders and executives from growing companies, both individuals and teams. As part of the Operations Masterclass, Dorothea supports entrepeneurial talents as a mentor.
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