Seven years ago, I made my first trip to the beautiful country of Ghana in West Africa. My desire to visit this place was so great that I was willing to separate from my nine month old twins for two weeks. I wanted to bring my babies back something truly special from the trip that would communicate the unique beauty of this country. Kofi, a graduate student from the University of Ghana, was given the unfortunate responsibility of taking me shopping. We went from store to store loking at the beautiful batik clothing, trying to find the perfect outfit for my babies. I was surprised and confused that none of the outfits had sizes in them. Every five minutes I would hold up a gorgeous children’s outfit to Kofi and ask him if he thought it would fit a nine-month old. Kofi patiently and consistantly gave me the same answer “children grow.” While I was too preoccupied with shopping to understand the wisdom of Kofi’s response at the time, I have since reflected on it many times over.
Too often in our lives we ar so focused on the “right” fit in the present, ignoring the reality that people grow and what fits us today probably will not tomorrow. So we may need to readjust our understanding of the “right” fit to include things that are currently bigger, knowing that we will grow into them. The confidence and commitment to our personal development allows us to maximize our leadership and enjoyment of life.
At work maximizing our leadership implies embracing situations where we are given new responsibilities that are beyond our current skill set and experience. Promotions often place people beyond their current ability and skill set. You may be an excellent sales person with with a great sales record but that skill set does not immediately qualify you as a great manager, eventhough it’s your sales record that earned you the promotion. Some of us may refuse to accept such opportunities for fear of no longer being “successful” while others assume that the promotion infers that no changes are necessary and eventually crash and burn. Yet, we each can successfully grow into our next level of leadership by equipping ourselves with new skills, knowledge, and experiences. To succsessfuly meet the challenges of our new position, we must fully embrace the fact that learning is a life long process.
However, this process of growing into the next level of leadership does not only apply to our careers. Relationships, especially those involving new roles like marriage and parenting, also require us to grow into new levels of leadership. The success of these relationships depends upon our willingness to constistantly retool ourselves to meet the emerging responsibilities and opportunities. Although children are born, great parents are not. People become great parents by opening themselves to learn new skills and developing new qualities that will be more effective in parenting that child. Parenting (marriage, friendship,ect.) is a relationship between two people in which each person is acting, observing, and remodulating based on the other.
Innovation is not only required for auto-dealers and technology companies, but for each one of us. So if we desire to sucesfully fulfill the new opportunities life presents to us, then reflection and revision become life long practices. When we are open to learn and challenge ourselves to innovate, we will sucessfully grow into ever increasing levels of leadership. Thus, expanding our ability to make a positive difference in the world.
So as you reflect on your current form of leadership in your career, family, organization, and community, consider how well your clothes fit. If there fit perfectly, if you are totally comfortable, I would encourage you to shop for a “bigger size” because there is room for your to grow and expand your influence in this world.