Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Growth

Think about all the leaders you know.  Have they all “arrived” at their positions?  They are CEO’s and captains of industry.  They are powerful speakers in the church.  They are pillars of the community.  They have seminars that people pay thousands of dollars to attend.  What is the one thing they have in common?  Charles “Tremendous” Jones said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet.”  The one thread that connects all the great leaders of the world is this:  they continue to read books and meet new people.  They make an effort to grow and learn.  One might learn a new language, study economics, read biographies of other leaders, grow in spiritual life, discover new problems to solve or solve problems that have plagued the world for years.  But they keep growing.

Significant growth–growth that means something–always results in the person being able to contribute to the community in new ways.  Growth is input; Contribution is output. I belong to several Toastmasters clubs.  One club in particular has produced many powerful leaders.  These people make it a point to continue studying in the Toastmasters education program–learning how to communicate on many levels, in many different situations, on many different topics.  The members here continue to hone their skills and learn new ones.  They consciously make an effort to grow.  These are the results: out of these 11 members, 9 have been area directors, 4 of these 9 have been division directors, and one of the 9 was a member of the international board of directors.  They have chaired conferences, run seminars, and provided training.  Some have even joined together to write inspirational books.   In other words, the level of contribution to the district and their communities is directly tied to the amount of growth they have enjoyed both individually and as a group.

Writing required these individuals to grow in ways they hadn’t considered before!  Because writing is not all you do if you want to publish, they had to learn to edit, and format, and and and…  The point is that all of these people had read the same books–Toastmasters manuals–so they had that in common, but had also read a great number of other books on a great many subjects.  All of them had a book in them, but only 2 had attempted to put it on paper and have it published.  Then they met each other and the sparks started to fly!  The books I read in this case were the chapters they wrote; and the people I met inspired me and helped me to revise my chapter and in turn, broadened my mind.  I grew a LOT during this process.

A large part of your motivation to grow is the attitude you express toward anything new.  Some of my students, the ones that don’t stay with me long, approach each new lesson with the belief that it will be hard.  That’s not how I teach.  When I work with musicians, I only add one new skill or one new concept at a time and give them many opportunities to explore it.  For instance, if I introduce a new note E, I will give the student the new note, show them where it is on the instrument, and then assign a couple of pages of songs that use the new note.  If I introduce 1/16 notes, I show the student how to count them, go through some different combinations, and then assign them a page or two with 1/16 note exercises and melodies to practice over the week.   I don’t go in and introduce E and F and G,A,B,C, and D, left hand and right hand, 3 octaves, a break down on counting from whole notes to 1/32 notes and then give my new student a Chopin mazurka, a Bach Prelude and a Beethoven sonata on his 2nd lesson.  He’s only 5.  He might get discouraged (especially trying to play octaves on 1/16 notes with hands that can only reach a 6th.)  See?  That would be hard.  Learning 1 note and using it isn’t hard.  My students NEVER step out of their comfort zone, they just expand it a little at a time.  I am trying to influence these students to grow.  Add 1 thing, play with it until it feels easier, then add another thing.

Growing is an organic, slow process.  You don’t grow by just adding something new; it might not be compatible or fit correctly and therefore would dry up and fall off.  I had a student that was learning a Rachmaninoff Prelude  and was considering having a third arm grafted onto her belly button so she could play the notes.  She decided against it because they don’t make clothes for people with three arms…  She learned the piece, though she would never perform it in public.  She considers it to be a major accomplishment–for several reasons!

  1. She had to learn to read the chords quickly enough to position her fingers.
  2. She had to move from the lowest notes to the high notes in a 1/2 of a count so her aim had to improve!
  3. On the last pages, both the left and right hands had double staves.  Generally one hand plays treble clef, and the other plays bass.  One hand has the melody and the other the harmony. On this piece however, both hands have both the melody and the harmony at the same time!
  4. In addition to these skills, she had to develop patience and a new method of practicing that would allow her to improve her performance.
  5. She had to adopt the attitude that though this piece was difficult, it was not impossible.
  6. She was 42 when she decided she wanted to play this piece.

This student was not aiming to be a concert pianist.  She already had a nursing career.  She learned a new way to express herself.  The person she met was me.  The book she read had musical notes in it.  But I also grew from this.  I had to formulate a way to get this information and technique to make sense to this student.  I had to think in new ways and use all my previous experience to teach this prelude.  I made use of some of my piano teaching friends in approach and some problem solving, and sought out other teachers who’d had experience teaching the Russian Romantic composers.

The most significant leaders are constantly seeking out new books and new experiences and meeting new people to help them grow.  In that way, the contributions they make to their communities are much more significant and on a grander scale.


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