A Simple and Clever Strategy for Growing as a Leader

What’s your strategy for growing as a leader? Do you have an actual strategy? That is, do you have an organized plan for increasing your capacity as a leader in strategic ways? Or, do you address needs on the fly? In my post last week I confessed that my approach is rather ad hoc and follows a pattern something like the following:

  1. Get frustrated with something
  2. Identify the source of frustration
  3. Analyze potential solutions
  4. Choose an approach and attack the problem
  5. Assess results and adjust as needed

It’s more a problem-solving technique than it is a strategy for growth. Shouldn’t you and I invest more energy and thought in our ability to lead than we would invest into reducing office supply waste?

Recently, I ran across an idea for growing as a leader that is both simple and clever. It comes from the inside cover of a book: The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler. Before you go get the book, be aware that it is not about leadership growth and development. The introduction says it contains “fifty best decision-making models.” I’ve browsed it and it contains a number of good ideas: finding market gaps, double-loop learning, conflict resolution, futuring, and 46 more. It’s certainly worth reading.

But it wasn’t those 50 ideas that comprise the simple and clever strategy for growing as a leader. It’s the diagram on the inside front cover of the book. The diagram is a Johari window that organizes the 50 decision-making ideas presented in the book. (For more on Johari windows and their history, read my article A Window Into Problems.)

It’s how those ideas are organized that makes the simple and clever strategy. Below, you see a simplified version of the diagram in the book.

Johari Window. Horizontal axis has

Let’s explore this diagram from the perspective of “growing as a leader.”

In this strategy, there are two dimensions to growing as a leader: Who and What.


There are two options for Who: me and others. When it comes to growing as a leader I can focus on issues related to myself or others. For myself, I might focus on building my emotional intelligence or my ability to trust others. For others, examples include being a better coaching leader and using the Hersey-Blanchard situational leadership model.


There are two options for What: doing and thinking. The doing dimension is the observable aspect of leading others. It’s how leaders interact with followers. Examples include coaching and vision casting. The thinking dimension takes place between the ears. It’s what goes on in your head as a leader. Examples include critical thinking and values-based thinking.

As you combine these dimensions you move off the axis lines running through the center of the diagram into the quadrants in the four corners. These four quadrants are no longer two-dimensional views on leading (i.e. Who vs What), but the real meat of leading:

  • How to improve myself
  • How to improve others
  • How to understand myself better
  • How to understand others better

Now you can see a simple but clever (easy to remember) and comprehensive strategy for growing as a leader. If you strategically focus your attention on these four quadrants over the course of a year, your skill and capacity in leading will have grown significantly.

(I offer a caveat about “How to improve others.” The focus here should not be on “fixing” other people. The focus should be on being a better leader in helping others grow. It’s a coaching mindset, not a fixer mindset.)

Thinking about this four-quadrant approach, I’m reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues. I recall reading somewhere that he focused on practicing each virtue one week at a time. At the end of the year, he would have focused intently on each virtue for four full weeks.

You might try a similar strategy with the four quadrants, perhaps one month at a time for each. Whatever your approach with these four quadrants for growing as a leader, it is a far more organized and strategic approach than what I see most leaders do. It’s also simple and easy to remember, putting the focus on growing, not managing some complex system.

What are you doing to grow as a leader in 2017?

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Photo by Alexander Watts. Photo available at Unsplash under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.</p

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