Tuesday, August 4, 2020

How Leaders Learn and Grow

The Three Periods of Self Development

Self-discovery or self-development doesn’t come instantly. It’s a journey and a process. In Learning Leadership by Kouzes and Posner, they really honed in on this concept and saw the research was leading them to three stages. But they didn’t know how to explain it.

Then their artist friend, Jim LaSalandra, talked about the 3 stages of an artist:

  • Stage1: They paint exterior landscapes
  • Stage2:They begin to paint interior landscapes
  • Stage3: Ultimately, they “paint themselves”

This is essentially observation. When first learning to lead, you do your reading and research. You read about famous leaders, you read books, gather resources, and attend training programs. This is all good because you’re still learning the fundamentals and other leaders can be models. Don’t worry about copying someone yet. In this stage, it’s all about learning and observing.

What to do in this stage:

Conduct an inventory of the leaders you’re observing. Answers these questions:

  • What would you like to emulate in what they’re doing?
  • What leadership lessons you have learned from them?
  • Do you have any favorite leader biographies?



You notice that YOU don’t feel comfortable with the way YOU do things. You will feel as if the techniques you are doing are not fully “You,” and instead you are emulating someone else. This stage is all about looking inside yourself. You go beyond training and imitation. Instead, you try some things out, you engage in second-guessing, experimenting, and once in a while you have fairly significant anxiety .

What to do in this stage:

Reflect on your personal-best leadership experience! What was it? What did you learn from it about yourself and about leadership? Dial in on your motivations and your underlying values. Decide to be that person.


This stage merges the lessons from your inner and outer journey. You’ve learned that you don’t have to copy anyone and you finally believe that your leadership comes from YOU.  And you are getting more comfortable with that.

What to do in this stage:

Continue learning about yourself and learn how to tell others about your beliefs (what you really stand for). Draw from your experiences and learn to trust in yourself. Now you know it’s true… you really can be a leader.

What stage do you think you’re in now? Are you ready to keep growing?

Let me know at

Here’s to your best year ever!


Dr. Rob

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