Living your greatest potential should be a goal of every high-impact leader. Potential is essentially the capabilities that are locked inside you, just waiting to come out. But, potential can’t be fully realized if the conditions aren’t right for it to happen.
As a dad, this is no more real than when I lead my kids. Especially when they were younger, it’s so much easier to just “do it for them”. Helping them learn to tie their shoes, just as an example, was pure agony…”Batman was in his hideout (pull laces up and cross one under the other to form a tent shape) when it collapsed (pull on each end to make a tight knot). So he jumped into the Batmobile, (make first loop for bow) drove around the block, (wrap other lace around loop) and parked inside Robin's cave to create a plan (push lace under new loop and pull to tighten)." For my oldest son who struggles with attention and focus anyway, after years and years of trying, we finally just resorted to velcro shoes, which solved the issue in the moment. But, eventually, he learned.
The key for leaders is to be aware of the needs of those you’re leading, the conditions that are best for them to grow, and create those conditions so their full potential can be expressed. The path of least resistance, especially during these fast moving times, could be to just do it yourself. But, when you don’t let your team stretch, they don’t grow, and their potential stay trapped forever. John Maxwell did a great job explaining this potential trap...
Leaders in some organizations don’t recognize the importance of creating a climate conducive to building potential leaders. To see the relationship between environment and growth, look at nature. One popular aquarium fish is the shark. The reason is that sharks adapt to their environment. If you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium in which it lives. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully mature. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal size.
The same is true of potential leaders. Some are put into an organization when they are still small, and the confining environment ensures that they stay small and under-developed. Only leaders can control the environment of their organization. They can be the change agents who create a climate conducive to growth.
The topic of potential for the leader needs to be viewed from two directions. First, are you in currently in an environment where you believe your greatest potential can be nurtured, valued, and released. Second, are you creating an environment for those you lead where their greatest potential is nurtured, valued, and released? If you answer no to either of those questions, change needs to come, starting now. You can either live your life in the aquarium, constrained by your limitations or someone else’s limitations on you. Or, you can live int he deep blue ocean where your potential is stretched every day…where you are feeling the freedom to perform, to create, to impact and influence, and ultimately to make a difference.