5 Sure Signs You’ve Stopped Growing as a Leader

You’ve seen leaders who have stopped growing. It’s not a pretty site.

If you’ve stopped growing as a leader, you’ve stopped leading well.

But often, the leaders who have stopped growing don’t realize it’s happened. After all, the people who lack self-awareness are never aware they lack it.

So…how do you know you’ve stopped growing as a leader? How would you know that’s you?

That’s where curiosity can save us. If you’re curious enough to wonder whether you might be stagnating in your growth as a leader, there’s hope. Those who ask the question and actually want to know the answer will grow.

The stakes are high because if you continue to stagnate long enough, you’ll soon peak as a leader and head into decline. Leaders who have peaked face their own unique set of challenges. I outline 5 signs you’ve peaked as a leader here.

Sadly, too many leaders stop growing long before they stop leading.  When that happens, they become leaders in title only.

So, in the hopes of staying fresh, alive and vibrant as leaders, here are 5 significant signs you’ve stopped growing.  The good news is if you jump on them quickly enough, reversal can be quick and effective.

1. You’re more interested in giving answers than asking questions

Hey, every leader needs answers. I get that.

But I also know that in seasons where my growth as a person and leader have slowed, one sure sign is that I only want to give answers rather than asking questions.

And that’s a terrible dynamic.

Why? Because breakthroughs are always preceded by questions, not answers.

If you want to reach your potential, ask questions that threaten that status quo—questions that probe for things overlooked by others. Ask questions that imagine what no one thought possible.

The excellence of your leadership is shaped less by the answers you give and more by the questions you ask.

2. You sift through new evidence only to back up your existing opinion

Too many leaders, and even organizations, suffer from confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias involves searching through new evidence mainly to find further evidence for your already-formed opinion. For sure, we all do this from time to time. Guilty as a charged.

But for growing leaders, regularly sifting through the evidence should lead to new conclusions, insights, and perspectives.

If your insights are wrong, correct them. If there are better perspectives, adopt them.

The implications for your team are deep on this one.

If your eyes aren’t truly open as a leader, you’ll never see or seize the future.

3. You spend almost all of your time doing what you like

I’m all for working in your sweet spot as a leader. Every leader should discover what they’re best at and spend a good chunk of their time in it. I couldn’t agree more.

But you should spend all of your time in your sweet spot? As in 100%?

Maybe, maybe not.

Here’s why. You can grow in your sweet spot, getting better and better at what you do best, which is great.

But being in your sweet spot every day doesn’t stretch you. In fact, it can start to feel comfortable…too comfortable.

Take that to its logical conclusion and you might discover this: spending all your time in your sweet spot can turn your sweet spot into a dead spot.

To keep growing, you need to tackle difficult projects, working out new leadership muscles and pushing you to think and grow beyond your current level.

Often tackling something new (even for a few hours a week) can do that.

What’s taking you out of your comfort zone? Chances are that’s where the growth is.

4. Your expertise has started working against you

Most leaders have a quiet desire to become an expert at something. Stick with it long enough and you’ve got a good shot at it.

Expertise, after all, is more than just training. More often than not, it involves a lot of reps.

But being an expert can make you cautious. It can also make you proud. And it can make you conservative.

Having worked so hard to achieve what you’ve achieved, you’re not as open to new ideas as you once were. You simply want to conserve what you’ve built.

Conserving what you’ve built and building nothing new as a result is a shortcut to irrelevance.

Great leaders who master a field over a lifetime are always interested in new ideas, new theories, and new insights because they know it makes them and their discipline better.

If you want to build an expertise that lasts into the next generation, remember this: the more open you are to fresh perspectives, the more deeply your hard-earned expertise will resonate into the next generation.

5. You’ve surrounded yourself with people just like you

Most of us in leadership work hard to build a team we love. And that’s great. Great leaders build great teams.

But if you’re not careful, over time your team might start to look and sound a lot like you. That’s a warning sign. Don’t get me wrong, having a team that’s committed to the vision and owns the vision is a good thing.

But every leader also needs a team that can challenge the process, challenge the strategy and even challenges you.

Don’t get me wrong. I think aligned teams are a key reason leaders succeed…and you absolutely need an aligned team (I outline what I’ve learned about alignment here).

But if your team looks like you, sounds like you and acts like you all the time, your vision will never get sharper, your strategy may never become more effective, and you will miss opportunities.

Bottom line: if your team looks just like you, it’s time to change up the team.

So what should you do?

Try to keep people around you who are committed to the same mission and vision but who are younger than you, a different gender than you, and who have a different background than yours.  People with different backgrounds who are committed to the same vision always accomplish it with greater fervor and effectiveness.

Tackle Your Organizational Barriers

pastoral emergencies

Tackling your personal barriers is a huge step forward. But what about organization barriers? How do you move those?

If you’re reaching more people but you’re currently stuck at an attendance plateau, I have some practical help for you.

Breaking 200 Without Breaking You is a course I’ve created that provides strategies on how to tackle eight practical barriers (including a more nuanced and practical dive into everything I covered in this blog post) that keep churches from reaching more than 200 people. And it’s designed so I can walk your entire leadership team or elder board through the issues.

So whether your church is 50, 150 or 250 in attendance, the principles will help you gain the insight you need to break the barrier more than 85% of churches can’t break. Even churches with attendances of 300-500 are finding the material helpful as they try to reach more people.

Click here to get instant access for you and your team.

What do you think?

What do you think?

What’s a significant sign or two for you that a leader has stopped growing?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

10 Comments

  1. Week 19 Inspiration 2018 - Bogdan D on May 11, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    […] Sadly, too many leaders stop growing long before they stop leading […]

  2. […] 5 Sure Signs You’ve Stopped Growing As A Leader by Carey Nieuwhof. Oh my…I hope this is never true of me. And #2 is a little scary. […]

  3. Sidd Pagidipati on April 10, 2018 at 5:15 am

    The moment you realize you cannot adapt, you are done as a leader! That’s one of the most powerful skills/trait a leader possesses.

  4. Kathryn on April 9, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    Good advice. One of the reasons I like doing interim ministry is that I’m always having to adjust and adapt and learn. Expertise provides the base, but a different congregation always has different challenges to work on and different gifts from which new growth can come.

    And all of this has to do with serving the body of Christ with the gifts of the Holy Spirit!

  5. Kathryn on April 9, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    Good advice. One of the reasons I like doing interim ministry is that I’m always having to adjust and adapt and learn. Expertise provides the base, but a different congregation always has different challenges to work on and different gifts from which new growth can come.

  6. Jonathan on April 9, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Where in all this poor advice, about how to pat your own back is the word, and focus on Christ and how he was a servant?.

  7. Trip Kimball on April 9, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Great stuff and I agree. Isolation and withdrawal are also danger signs further down the line from what you shared.

  8. Mark on April 9, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Some stop listening to people. When it is obvious that you don’t care about everyone while leading a church, there is a significant problem.

  9. Stetson on April 9, 2018 at 11:22 am

    I think for me its when leaders lets their cynical side of them lead them!

  10. Harley Jay Nickless on April 9, 2018 at 10:31 am

    Ouch! this helps.

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