Stretching physically prepares you for greater activity. It has important benefits like developing your flexibility and range of motion, increasing blood circulation, and even improving your performance in physical activities
Just as an athlete would never train without stretching, leaders should not lead without stretching. To avoid circumstances that stretch us is to intentionally choose to shorten our reach, stiffen our gait, and limit our movement. But moving out of the comfort zone requires stretching. The good ole days, while good, are gone and we must be willing to learn and grow in order to be effective for the future. So how does a leader keep up with things? How can he or she grow? By stretching!
Recently, Ron Edmondson shared some ways to stretch yourself as a leader. (Originally posted by Ron Edmondson, used by permission). Here they are:
1. Read something different from what you normally read. If you love to read history, occasionally read a book of fiction. Pick up a tech magazine, even if you’re far from being a techie. Read the comics, or the opinion page, or a biography — whatever something is different from what you usually read.
2. Hang out with people not like you. One of my favorite ways to stretch myself has been to surround myself with many different personalities and interests among my friendships. I am introverted. I have some very extroverted friends. I’m not usually loud in a crowd — and a few of my close friends are always the life of the party. I’m conservative. I have some very liberal friends. Honestly, it’s sometimes more comfortable to only hang out with people who think like me, but I realize I’m missing opportunities to grow when I do.
3. Move forward on something with uncertainty. This will be a challenge for some of you reading this. For others it’s easy. It comes fairly easy for me. But, the fact is we will rarely have all the answers when making decisions. It actually eliminates faith when we do, by the way. Take a new risk on something. It’s one of the surest ways to stretch yourself.
4. Attempt something you’ve never done. This goes with taking a risk, but do something you not only consider “risky” — try to do something beyond what you think you can do. Take a college class, even though you’ve been out of school for years. Learn a language or to play an instrument. (I recently told my wife when I finish the advanced degree I’ve been working on for a few years – this will be my fourth – I want to learn a foreign language.) Take up photography or baking. Try to do a home repair — with just the help of the guy at the hardware store. If you’ve never done it — all the better. The more different from you it seems — the greater the stretch.
5. Spend more time on opportunities than on problems. This is huge because problems tend to weigh us down and discourage us. Opportunities challenge and encourage us. Yes, fixing problems is exhilarating for some of us (like me), but only getting back to ground zero pales compared to finding new potential for growth. We can’t avoid handling problems, but we can discipline ourselves to focus more energy towards advancement rather than repair. Try it. In my experience, when I do this, some of the problems I thought needed so much of my attention no longer do.
6. Schedule and discipline time to dream. Dreaming can quickly become a lost art in a sea of mediocrity and repetition. We get so caught up in systems, routines, and processes that we fail to imagine what is yet to be realized. I try to schedule a few hours a week of blank calendar time and shut everything down to think and pray. Sometimes I take a walk. Sometimes I read. Always I try to think of something new.
7. Stay physically active. Numerous studies I’ve read indicate what my experience already knows. I stretch my mind when I stretch my body. And, the more I stretch my body, the more I stretch my mind.
BEFORE YOU GO
We all need to be stretched! What other ways can we be stretching as a leader? I’d love to hear your ideas!