Generation Next

Feb 03, 2022

For many years, I was the primary leader of a successful organization. Until I hit a plateau. It took me 20 years to reach a pinnacle of my dreams-come-true and then nothing. I was still dreaming new dreams, yet hit wall after wall. I was stuck, unable to move forward and refusing to move backward, spinning my wheels in circumstances I couldn’t control.

     Flabbergasted, frustrated, and in all honesty, anxious, I realized I needed something or someone to help me discover the way out of being stuck. I knew the status quo wasn’t acceptable and I also knew that retrospection wouldn’t help me move forward.

     Every leader has asked himself or herself the question, “How can I overcome being stuck, frustrated, plateaued and denied the success of my goals?” True visionary leaders cannot tolerate a lack of progress. So, how do we move forward when we don’t have the answers?

     I hired an executive coach who surprised me: he didn’t focus on the organizational structure. He didn’t focus on staff evaluations and reassignments or even on staff development. He focused on me. I had no idea how much work I needed to do on myself.

     It was only through changing myself, my thought process, my demeanor, and my decisions that I was able to pull myself off the plateau and see forward momentum again. The snare of stagnancy is that between our formation and aspiration, mental institutionalization sets in. We get trapped in the mindset that what used to work will always work and what worked in the past will work forever. Success doesn’t come from stationary people. Moving forward will always require change, and moving forward successfully will always require introspection.

     “What got you where you are will not take you where you want to go,” Ron McManus, director of the Church Transformation Network, says.

     Introspection is scary. It’s almost like not knowing what we will encounter. We have to look at our failures and weaknesses even more than our successes and strengths. It’s painful and difficult. Changing ourselves is truly the only way to effect change around us when we are stuck.

     What a shame that when I was on the plateau, the last thing I thought to change was myself. Constantly learning, growing, and introspecting, constantly evaluating ourselves for improvements … that’s the only way we can avoid becoming stuck in the first place. Without introspection, the primary leader is relying on crisis-management. Everything is a reaction. When the Primary Leader is growing, the dream can grow, too. When the leader is right, you’re not having to manage a message. You are the message.

     The primary leader is the catalyst for becoming unstuck. If you are not growing, the dream is not growing. If you are stuck, eventually the dream will be trapped right along with you. The key is remembering that our people don’t work for us. We work for them. And we can’t develop others unless we are developing ourselves.