The bright morning sun overwhelmed my porch and I watched as the Ficus tree in the corner soaked in the warmth of the sun rays. I noticed how it had grown in recent weeks by stretching its branches and leaning in toward the open window to take advantage of both the sun and humidity. The result of the infusion of sun and moisture had caused this beautiful plant to grow upward with new branches and healthy green leaves.

There is something so satisfying about seeing a living thing grow and be healthy, stretching out to absorb that which nurtures it. The image caused me to pause in my morning quiet time, and ask myself one question:

Am I growing up?

That may sound like a very silly question at my age? Of course, I am growing up, right? Not necessarily. We all grow older, but do we grow up?

Think back to when you were young and finished the familiar sentence, “When I grow up, I want to be . . . .” I assume that most people, like me, finished that sentence with something they wanted to be rather than someone they wanted to become.

Choosing something to be rather than someone to become are two very different things. “I want to be a firefighter” is very different than “I want to be mature, wise, kind and generous.”

Like the Ficus tree on my porch, growing up requires us to stretch and yearn for the things that nurture us. If we stop growing up, we just grow old and begin to wither just like the plant would do without the sunlight and humidity.

If we have been called to lead, it is imperative that we constantly grow up and it is quite obvious that the more we grow up, the better we will lead. What actions enable a leader to grow up?

A Leader Grows Up by Doing These 5 Things:

  • Envisioning the person she wants to become. True leaders don’t focus on a title or a role; instead, they focus on the kind of person they need to be to best lead. They identify the character qualities they need and want to develop and realize that the titles and position will follow.


  • Nurturing his soul. Leaders focused on becoming the person they were destined to be do the hard “soul work” of developing their self-image. Great leaders have self-awareness and self-confidence that comes from a deep understanding of themselves.


  • Developing her mind. My most influential leader often quoted, “You will be the same person five years from now as you are today except for the books that you read and the people that you meet.” As I have grown up, I have found that statement to be true. Reading, studying, learning from other leaders and taking on stretch assignments keep a leader’s mind engaged and sharp.


  • Investing in others. The old saying that you learn what you teach is true. Investing in others is certainly important to preparing the next generation of leaders but it also gives leaders the opportunity to reflect, repeat and reinforce the principles they know to be true. This practice not only grows others, but also grows the leader.


  • Taking care of himself. If a leader completely depletes himself of energy, he cannot be effective. It is an important skill of a leader to be able to rest mind and body, allowing ourselves to refresh and have more to give to those we lead. Leadership is a life-long journey and to go the distance, we must take care of our bodies, minds and hearts. For all of the drive, initiative and ambition to achieve that fills a leader’s day, there has to be equal opportunity to play, relax and rest. It creates the rhythm that allows us to go the distance.

Think about it and dwell a little longer on the question – do you want to grow up or just grow old? If you want to grow up, think about these five actions you can take and incorporate them into your lifestyle, or if you have drifted from your original vision, re-visit these ideas. Growing up sounds like a much better option to just growing old. Click To Tweet