Leadership, a Journey Without End

The common denominators of respected leaders are they never stop learning, and they never stop teaching. Leadership takes a significant commitment to the journey of others. It is fraught with setbacks, mistakes, tough decisions, and pride.

The unwavering leadership commitment is to help others take risks, make mistakes, do things wrong, and from all that pain to discover the “ah-ha” from experience and to improve continually. When an individual decides to assume the responsibility of leadership, they enter a covenant with the person or team to be honest, frank, at times blunt, vulnerable, humble and to endure through right decisions, bad decisions, mistakes, and successes; to freely give away the achievements and shoulder the responsibilities.

Leadership is the art of delegating, not abdicating. Just because a leader trusts others with the work does not mean they abandoned their responsibilities for quality and execution.

Close your eyes and picture a person you respected as a leader. Try to capture the problematic conversations they had with you, not just the informal discussions. When was it that you realized this person was investing in you to make you a better person? Was it during a coaching moment? Was during a course correction of a habit, attitude, or behavior? Was it through stretching you to discover abilities beyond what you thought you were capable of accomplishing? Was it through a process of helping you identify your blind spots or flaws that others have been willing to overlook? Did they give you all the answers, or did they encourage/force you to identify solutions?

I guess that you discovered you were being taught leadership by their willingness to invest the time in you while you struggled to identify answers instead of just giving you the shortcuts. As adults, we learn the best lessons intellectually, through personal observation and experientially, not by just being told what to do and how to do it. This experience of learning by thinking and trying takes time and patience. How often have we experienced an environment where the team lead/manager becomes the exclusive “answer source,” the go-to person that has all the answers. This occurrence is often seen in new managers because they take pride in having the answers to all the questions. But we have also seen this behavior becomes habitual. The reality is, leadership development is about teaching others to think for themselves, not to create an environment of dependency.

Another critical characteristic you may have identified is this respected leader was quick to address the difficult conversations. They didn’t store them up for performance reviews, ignore them, or give you a free pass. They dealt with mistakes, behaviors, or attitudes directly and quickly; in real-time. Expert leaders know better than to expect perfection. They have learned we are flawed people that are products of our past. They also know that people don’t screw up on purpose; they make mistakes because of wrong information, a lapse in judgment, or inadequate training. Leaders know errors are not the problem; the failure to learn from mistakes is the problem. That is why expert leaders give quick, honest, and specific coaching.

Leadership is as much about teaching, coaching, and mentoring people to become the best they can be as it is about directing and making decisions. Easy? Never. Important? Absolutely. Patience, tact, listening, asking, hearing, and creating feedback loops are all skills leaders consistently use.

A leadership mantra might be to create an environment where everyone is learning, growing, and stretching every day.

About rich@leading2leadership.com

Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on Amazon.com and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at www.leading2leadership.com.


  1. cegosasiapacific on August 6, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Excellent article! Yes, leadership is to delegate the right work to the right person at the right time. Leadership is to let go of your fears of someone superseding you all the time; of holding all the cards to yourself. Leadership is to see people under you grow with you or more than you. A true leader believes in himself and his capability. He doesn’t stop learning and doesn’t stop others from learning.

    • rich0747 on August 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Excellent points cegosasispacific

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