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Leadership requires working through challenging situations, with awkward people, and in difficult times. And leaders grow most when leadership is messy.

Leaders-Develop-When-They-Get-Their-Hands-MessyAt the heart of every leader there needs to be a willingness to get their hands messy when things get hard. This is how leaders develop.

Do you ever catch yourself procrastinating during tough times? Have you ever looked back on a situation and recognised that your reluctance to act stemmed from being worried about doing or saying the wrong thing?

I have. And on those occasions, my failure to engage with the situations and people I needed to, resulted from fear — a fear of getting my hands messy with issues or challenges I felt ill-equipped to deal with.

There have also been times that I’ve turned down great opportunities through fear of what others would think if I failed to perform, only to live with the regret of having missed out on what could’ve been new learning and a brilliant experience.

Challenge is key to leadership development

You too may have been found wanting with regards to stepping in on occasion. Maybe you also felt that things seemed too tough or were beyond your capability.

The irony here is that engaging in challenge is key to your development as a leader. A willingness to step out of your comfort zone results in the stretching and growth of your leadership capacity. It’s only when willing to fail that you’ll know success.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt 

When you stare fear in the face, move beyond the safety of your insecurities, and do the things you feel most incapable of doing, you’ll grow as a leader.

Leaders that face discomfort grow

Your development as a leader will require you to face discomfort, and at times result in you having to ask searching questions about your abilities, motivations, beliefs and values. This may not be easy.

But despite being uneasy, the process is necessary. For though you may need to endure a bumpy ride on occasion, the results will be worth it. And for good reason.

For in facing your discomfort, recognising it as an opportunity for growth, and showing a willingness to embrace challenge and get your hands messy, you’ll see growth in your capacity to lead effectively.

Over to you…

What have been your biggest leadership challenges and how would you respond in hindsight?

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