Accidental Personal Leadership is a BIG Mistake!

Hello everyone I’m Brian Bratti with Bratti Innovation Group (BIG) where we help you achieve BIG Results.  Welcome to my weekly BIG Blog Series.  This month I’m kicking off a 3 month series on the subject of Leadership.  For the month of April, I’ll be discussing Personal Leadership, the foundation for all leadership pursuits.  In May we’ll address the topic of Leading Others, the primary calling of a Leader.  And finally, for the month of June, I’ll be discussing the topic of Developing Other Leaders, which involves the legacy responsibility all great leaders embrace.  For each week I’ll tackle one aspect of these three subjects in hopes that it will “Help You Achieve BIG Results!”

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Subject of Personal Leadership.

Leadership assumes that you cannot effectively lead others if you cannot lead yourself.  As a former military officer, I remember learning the leader’s mantra: “don’t just do as I say, but do as I do” and believe that statement applies to anyone in a leadership role.  This is because leadership by example creates legitimacy in the eyes of those you lead so if you struggle with leading yourself (Personal Leadership), you most assuredly will struggle with leading others.  In fact, John Maxwell, the author of numerous books and the founder of the company for which I am licensed and certified to Coach, Speak & Train says there are two questions every leader must ask himself or herself:  1) What am I doing to develop myself and 2) What I am doing to develop others.  This month, we’ll tackle the first one.

One of the foundational principles of leading yourself is the idea of being intentional about your own personal growth.  If you lead others and are not intentionally growing yourself, you will soon be left behind in terms of ideas and cutting edge thinking, resulting in the loss of credibility with those you are trying to lead.  This is because those you lead who are on intentional growth plans will grow and you will not.  Moreover, if you are not intentional about your personal growth, you leave your own personal well-being and growth to chance and, chances are, when left to chance you don’t stand much of a chance in succeeding in being the person and leader you are meant to be (try saying that five times fast).  So what does being intentional about personal growth as a leader look like and what are some of the pitfalls of choosing to not being intentional about investing in yourself?

In his book, “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” John Maxwell discusses 15 laws that we must learn, live and master if we want to reach our true potential, the first of which is the Law of Intentionality.  The Law of Intentionality states, quite simply, growth doesn’t just happen.  And by growth we mean getting better.  By not improving ourselves through personal growth, we remain as we are with the only difference being we’ve added to ourselves more years but not more wisdom and improvement.  I’m sure you’ve seen examples in your own life where a person can have 10 years of experience and another can have 2 years of experience five times.  That’s the difference between growing and aging.  They can take place simultaneously but not necessarily.  Unfortunately, many of us are not intentional about growing ourselves and this could be due to the 8 gaps that John says stand between where we are right now and the action needed to get us where we want to be.  So, to be intentional in our Personal Leadership and growth, we need to identify and avoid or get ourselves out of these gaps which are:

  • The Assumption Gap: This gap arises from the belief “I assume I will automatically grow.” As stated above, the problem with this assumption is that meaningful growth does not happen on its own and if it does by some miracle happen, the obvious question is how will we know it?  If we haven’t set a desired outcome beforehand and have not been intentional about growth, how will we know when we reach it?  Many assume we just grow naturally.  We don’t.  Don’t fall into the Assumption Gap.
  • The Knowledge Gap – This gap arises from the belief that “I don’t know how to grow.” Because many of us haven’t had the structure of formal education for a long time, we aren’t in the habit of setting aside organized time for intentional learning and growing.  Therefore, we might have forgotten how to grow ourselves.  If you find yourself yearning for growth but not knowing how to do it, consider becoming more intentional in investigating how to put in place a plan for your personal growth today.  It will be one of the wisest investments you can make in yourself.
  • The Timing Gap – This gaps involves the idea that “It’s not the right time to begin.” This is the gap that may be one of the worst of all because if the timing is never right (and it often isn’t), then the growth never starts.  Many of us are constantly starting to start and that normally gets us nowhere.  He’s the reality: it is rarely convenient to start anything meaningful because those activities often require effort and personal growth is one of those activities.  If you’re waiting to start, then you might be struggling with the Timing Gap.
  • The Mistake Gap – This gap centers around the notion of “I’m afraid of making mistakes.” Admittedly, no one likes to make mistakes.  They can be painful and often embarrassing.  However, we often have a wrong viewpoint on mistakes (for more on this, please see my other blog post on this subject entitled “Give Yourself Permission to Fail” or consider joining my online mastermind class based on John Maxwell’s book “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn”).  Suffice it to say that if you aren’t willing to make mistakes, you aren’t willing to grow because growth doesn’t happen without mistakes.  If a fear of making mistakes is holding you from pursuing the creation of a personal growth plan for yourself, you’re in the Mistake Gap.
  • The Perfection Gap – This gap is formed around the belief that “I have to find the best way before I start.” This is akin to the Timing Gap.  Being intentional about your growth will never be perfect nor will there ever be a perfectly straight line between where you are right now and where you want to go.  If you’re waiting for the perfect way or timing, you’ll probably be waiting for a very long time.  Don’t wait for the “best way” to magically appear before you put in place a growth plan for yourself and avoid the Perfection Gap.
  • Inspiration Gap – This gaps arises from the emotion “I don’t feel like doing it.” Here is where we need to address our feelings head on by acknowledging feelings can be unreliable.  Ask any professional athlete if they train only when they feel like it and I’m pretty sure they will tell you absolutely not.  In fact, often the most growth and improvement an athlete may experience is precisely when they “don’t feel like doing it.”  The same is true for you and me if we want to grow beyond where we are now.  Chances are, there will be many times we “won’t feel like doing it” but the ability to push through those feelings is absolutely essential to growing both as a person and as a leader.  If you don’t feel like putting a growth plan in place for yourself right now, that’s probably the best indicator that you should do precisely that – start creating a growth plan for yourself right now!
  • The Comparison Gap – This gap comes from thinking “Others are better than I am.” Here’s another truth: there will always be someone better than you and me at something.  No champion gets the title “Champion for Life.”  All wins are temporary and all trophies tarnish.  Also, you probably don’t have all the facts concerning what that person did to get to that champion status.  One of the cures for this gap is the ability to cultivate the discipline of rejoicing for those who are in front of us so that we might not only be able to now shift our focus from them to our personal growth plan (where it belongs) and thus actually move ourselves forward but also be able to help those who are behind us and watching us as examples to follow.  Comparisons never help us in our own growth.  In fact, they stymie growth.  Do you want to get out of the Comparison Gap?  Start by being happy for those who do well around you so you can move on to working on your own growth plan by staying out of theirs.
  • The Expectation Gap – This gap arises from the expectation of “I thought it would be easier than this.” We all know that nothing worth having is easy so it’s no different when we look at our own personal growth.  As Henry Ford said, “Most folks miss opportunity because it’s usually dressed in overalls and looks like work.” If we want to grow, we’re signing up for work, plain and simple.  John Maxwell says the difference between a winner and whiner is a whiner wants to feel good before they do something and a winner does something and then feels good.  The winner understands that the right emotions follow the right actions and not the other way around.  Therefore, if you’re thinking you need to feel good to create a growth plan for yourself you run the risk of abandoning it when the going gets tough (and it will) and thus forego the chances of it doing you any good.  Growth plans cannot rely on expectations that growth will be easy.  Don’t allow your personal growth to be held captive to this illusion and resolve to make yourself an effective growth plan today.

So now that you’ve seen these gaps I have to ask you – do any of them resonate with you right now? Below is a chart taken from John’s book where you can measure where you are with regard to any gaps in which you may find yourself.  Go ahead and take a moment to see where you stand in the intentionality gaps:

Accidental Growth                                                                                          Intentional Growth

0              1              2              3              4              5              6              7              8              9         10

Plans to start tomorrow –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Insists on starting now

Waits for growth to come –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Takes responsibility to grow

Learns only from mistakes –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Learns before mistakes

Depends on good luck –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Relies on hard work

Quits early and often –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Perseveres long and hard

Falls into bad habits ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Fights for good habits

Talks big –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Follows through

Plays it safe ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Takes risks

Thinks like a victim ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Thinks like a learner

Relies on talent –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Relies on character

Stops learning after graduation ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Never stops learning

If you’re like most people who do not have a growth plan in place, your scores in one or more of the above areas may indicate where you are being held back and where you may need to become more intentional about taking control of your Personal Leadership.  So I commend you to use these scores to become intentional about creating a Personal Leadership growth plan today.  Next week we’ll address what I believe is one of the most effective safeguards to your Personal Leadership – Accountability.

Finally, do you want to put your Personal Leadership growth on the fast track?  Email me at or check out some of my coaching, training and mastermind group services on my website for more information on how I can help you and your organization achieve BIG Results.  Thanks and I look forward to being with you again next week.