In yoga class, my teacher will sometimes ask us to pose and stand with outstretched arms. It’s quite simple. She’ll then ask if we can stretch a bit further, as if we are reaching for something. And that’s when I’m taken by surprise. Because in that moment I realize that I’ve not been stretching as far as I am capable, that there is yet more.
What I see in my clients who are stretching into elevated leadership roles is similar. When they enter these roles, it’s often to take on more than they’ve had to in the past (more people, more responsibility, more visibility, for example), and they have to stretch their abilities, confidence, and ways of thinking and working. And they might wonder if that stretch is entirely possible.
But what happens over the course of a year is not merely the achievement of their goals – accelerated performance, hitting targets, building and leading successful teams, meeting deadlines – but the learning and mastery of everything it takes to get there. Communication skills become attuned and refined for different audiences and difficult conversations; greater confidence and leadership presence is built because every time someone stretches beyond where they might think themselves capable, those are the natural byproducts ; greater ease and speed with decision-making begins to fall into place because it’s being practiced over and over again; influence grows because the visibility that comes with taking on and leading strategic initiatives naturally lends itself to greater recognition of a leader’s work; and there is an accruing self-knowledge that develops during this kind of stretch, an awareness and understanding about one’s own inclinations, reactions, and values that breeds a more insightful, capable, and dexterous leader.
I wonder, though, if the greatest benefit for any of us who stretch is that, as in yoga class, we get to experience what it is to lengthen into yet more, and when that opportunity comes around again, we know what it is to reach out beyond our finger tips, out beyond what we originally thought possible.
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I work with talented, ambitious, successful CEOs and senior leaders who want to stretch themselves to greater success and Magnificent Leadership®.
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