IN PURSUIT OF POTENTIAL
By Dr. John C. Maxwell
The enemy of great is good. The primary reason so few leaders
or organizations ever become great is because they get good and
then stop. They stop growing, learning, risking, and changing.
They use their track record or prior successes as evidence that
they’ve arrived. Believing their own headlines, the leaders in
these successful organizations are ready to write it down, build
the manual, and document the formula. This mentality shifts
their business from a growth to a maintenance mindset.
Neither you nor your business ever “arrives.” We never get to
the place where there’s nothing more to be done and nothing more
to be said. In the words of my friend Dave Anderson,
“Yesterday’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster.” What you
strutted yesterday, the next day is just cleaning dust off of
I like to distinguish between a “goal mindset” and a “growth
mindset.” A person with a “goal mindset” has very tangible,
numerical goals to achieve over a specific period of time.
Nothing is wrong with clearly defined goals, but there’s a
better way of thinking that I call a “growth mindset.” A growth
mindset recognizes goals on the journey, but only as part of a
process—not as the end results.
When goal-oriented people hit a milestone, they have tendency
to settle very quickly, but when growth-minded individuals hit a
goal, they blow right on by because they’re constantly learning
Success has a brutal side: It can make you arrogant, it can
make you complacent, and it can close your mind. To survive the
temptations of triumph, we must realize that success is not the
point and should never be the ultimate objective of an
enterprise. The goal of business is to strive to reach full
potential. I define full potential as focusing on seeing how
far you can go, how good you can get, and how many people you
can bring with you. Reality dictates that you will most likely
never reach your full potential, but the journey keeps you
humble, hungry, and focused. What you become in the process
helps you and your organization make the leap from good to great.
Use your success as a stepping stone, not a pedestal.
Leaders of successful organizations are tempted to stop working
on themselves. They continue to work hard on their job, but
they have a tendency to neglect personal growth. They use their
experience and track record as a license never to read another
book and an excuse never to attend another developmental course
in their field. They point to their acclaim and accomplishments
and decide to rely on the skills they have learned in the past
to run the rest of their career. They develop an arrogance of
intelligence that creates a disabling ignorance. This ignorance
disables them, their people, and, as a result, their business.
Growing people grow people. But when you don’t grow, you
plateau. It’s just a matter of time. Once this happens, you
plateau everyone working for you. When I as a leader go flat,
my influence with everybody in my organization fizzles and fades.
When the leader doesn’t grow, the people don’t grow. It’s the
Law of the Lid; a stagnant leader stunts the growth of the
Let me give you four benefits of pursuing your potential, even
during seasons of success.
• We have higher self-esteem. People that are constantly
learning and growing have a good self-image.
• We are willing to change and risk. One of the obvious
evidences of growing people is that they are constantly changing
and risking. Show me a person that doesn’t change, that doesn’t
risk, and I’ll show you a person that’s not growing.
• Our passion increases. When we begin to grow personally, our
passion for life and learning begins to increase proportionately.
• We lift the lid for others. What a leader does determines what
everybody else is going to do. The people don’t pass the leader.
An organization’s growth doesn’t outpace the leader’s progress.
As I lift the lid for myself, I lift the lid for others.
One of the most amazing things to me is how much room there is
at the top. On the other hand, it’s jam-packed and crowded at
the bottom. On the streets of average, there’s traffic and
congestion, but success has so few people on the roads. It’s
amazing how the higher you go, the less people there are.
Three percent of the people in the United States have a library
card. Six percent of Americans believe Elvis is still alive.
Trust me, there’s a lot of room at the top.
As a leader you should learn like you’ll live forever and live
like you’ll die tomorrow. Either way, you’re covered.
“This article is used by
permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell’s free monthly e-newsletter
‘Leadership Wired’ available at www.INJOY.com.”