How your growth goal could kill us

Have you ever been a part of a team that is obsessed with growth?  I have.  At some point a big vision is cast. It's inspiring and it feels right.  At other times growth feels like a hamster wheel.  You work hard to win a battle only to face the same battle the next year, eventually the battles start to blend together and the only thing you count is loss.  But can we be a leader if we aren't talking about growth?

I don't believe that growth is the enemy.  I do believe that having an unquenchable thirst to grow is destructive.  In Jim Collins' book How the Might Fall, Jim say's this on page 54,

The greatest leaders do seek growth-growth in performance, growth in destinctive impact, growth in creativity, growth in people-but they do no succumb to growth that undermines long-term value.  And they certainly do not confuse growth with excellence.  Big does not equal great, and great does not equal big.

Yep, right there is a truth bomb.  Are you ears still connected to your head because your brain might have just exploded?

How do we fall into the trap of constantly trying to grow (Which mistakenly makes us think we are great)?  I think we can fall into the trap in these ways:

1.  Bulk is better - A culture can easily fall in love with "more".  Abundance displaces fear.  If we have everything than we don't need to worry about drought.  But "more" is costly.  Inevitably we trade something to have more.  What we are most likely to give up for more is the culture that originally made us great.  We move from a creative culture to a management culture.  This leads us to management of scarcity instead of a pursuit to get better in culture, or innovation, or reach.

2.  Because the Bible say's so - After all, the great commission does say "Go into all nations."  That sounds like a pretty hefty growth goal for 11 fellas with no access to airplanes, right?  I would say this falls under Collins' list above as growth in distinctive impact.  Jesus didn't say, "In the next 60 years you better have a Caesar on board, ya heard."  (That would be pretty sweet to hear Jesus throw down some slang)  But Jesus does say, go.  Now that's a goal.  You and I, we have to go.  But remember this commission is to individuals who make up a team, not to a team that needs to conform individuals.

3.  The sake of our name - I have to check myself all the time.  I have windows in leadership where I think I killed it.  Those windows of time are measured by numbers.  But the longer you lead the more you realize there are seasons of less numbers but equal the amount of work, maybe even more work.  This is the nature of leading a team.  But don't set goals for growth because you think it reflects on your name as a leader or it reflects on the name of your team or organization.

When I think about being a great leader I think about things like: Seeing others have success, seeing the lives of impacted people change, and celebrating what we've done together as a team.  I have to be careful the measure the right types of growth.

There's a lot at stake.  Thus the challenge to being a leader.  I'll leave you with this final comment from Collins' (p.62),

While no leader can single-handedly build an enduring great company, the wrong leader vested with power can almost single-handedly bring a company down.  Choose well.