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My greatest passion is not leadership.

That may sound odd, considering that so much of what I do involves various aspects of leadership, but it's true. My greatest passion isn't leadership; it's growth. It always has been, and it always will be.

The only way to stay ahead of the pack is to keep growing. The moment you let up—the second you give in to the temptation to rest on your laurels—people who are more committed to continual growth catch up with you and eventually leave you in their dust.

I'm not saying that everyone who ever receives a promotion earns it by displaying great growth and development, of course. Some people are promoted because they're married to the CEO's daughter, or because they're best friends with the company president, or for some other equally inadequate reason.

Sometimes these people rise to the occasion and do a good job, but more often than not, they never get past being completely in over their heads.

Read this carefully: It's OK to be in over your head because you grew into the next level. It's not okay to be in over your head because you were given the next level.

In the first scenario, you're in over your head temporarily. You grow into your new position because growth is part of your lifestyle. You seek mentors and answers, and in doing so, you just might learn enough to move to an even higher level.

When you're handed a promotion on a silver platter, however, you likely will be in over your head permanently. You continue to lean on past experiences and luck to pull you through, and you avoid mentors who could help you grow into your new role. As a result, you just stay at that level unless—God forbid—a friend or relative gives you another undeserved promotion.

I call this second situation "advancing in position but not in personal growth." This is a terrible state of affairs—and not just for the individual involved. This scenario also is bad for everyone else in the company, and—if the nonqualified person has a very visible position—it could even have a detrimental effect on the organization's reputation among its clients or customers.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the tendency to advance in position but not in personal growth. Here are just a few.
  1. Grow now, where you are.
    Don't say, "When I get to that next level, then I'm going to grow." Do it now. Look actively for ways to expand your competencies, improve your interpersonal skills and broaden your influence--right where you are.
  2. Grow those around you.
    Many times, they'll take you with them; other times you'll take them with you. But you can't go together if you don't keep growing together.
  3. Grow your area of responsibility.
    Be a producer. Develop new ways to increase your output, improve your efficiency, and get things done. And don't be afraid to take on tough assignments that no one else wants to tackle. They might be just what you need to widen your scope of responsibility.
  4. Let growth be your promoter.
    If you don't remember anything else I've written in this newsletter, remember this. It is so important, I can't emphasize it enough. Don't rely on office politics, family connections, personal friendships or sheer luck to move you to the next level--let growth be your champion and your ultimate promoter.
If you were to ask me whether or not I'm going to start another company, or how many books I plan to write, or what I'm going to do after I equip a million leaders internationally, do you know what I'd say?

My answer to any of those questions would be simple: I don't know, but I'm still growing. You see, the ace that I hold in my hand isn't what I've done, where I am, who I am or the position I hold. It's growth.

If I keep growing, I will be able to build any company I need to build, write any book I need to write and do anything else I need to do. I don't need a list of career goals to keep me moving forward; I just need to keep growing. That's because my goals do not insure my future—my growth does.

And the same is true for you.

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter Leadership Wired available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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