How to Grow as a Leader in 7 Actionable Ways

by Jason Evanish, CEO Get Lighthouse, Inc.

Ever feel stuck in growing as a leader? Seem like you’re in a rut doing the same things every week? 

As a leader it’s easy to take what was a comfortable groove and find it now feels more like a rut.

You may have mastered the basics of management, and your team is mostly okay, but you're longing for something more.

That longing is a desire for growth. 

And no matter if your team is shrinking, growing, or staying the same, there’s a number of things you can do to shake things up and super charge your growth. 

Our post today gives you 7 actionable leadership growth tactics you can start applying to your work to level up your leadership from where you are today. It will also put you on a better path towards that next promotion, milestone, and positive review from your team members.

The 7 ways to grow as a leader we cover today

Let's dig in...

A person masters time management to grow as a leader

1) Master time management for you and your team

How you spend your time is an investment. Are you wasting it?

This is a moving target to always reflect upon. You can easily go from feeling like everything is under control to suddenly finding your calendar overloaded, and find that too often you don't know where the day went.

That's why this is our first tactic to grow as a leader, and it's an important thing for you to do semi-regularly. By improving your time management, you and your team can get more of the right things done consistently.

So, how do you do this? A few ways:

  1. Start with a meeting audit. What meetings are unnecessary? Which ones could be done asynchronously? You never want to waste a bunch of time in a meeting that doesn't get anything done, make any decisions, nor move the ball forward. It's always worth taking a look and seeing which meetings are still necessary.
  2. Eliminate and manage distractions. Avoid checking email, social media, work chats, and other distractions too often. Instead, time-box them to give you more focused time and fewer interruptions, while also creating a way for real emergencies to reach you. The rest then can wait.
  3. Maintain focus. By setting clear long-term goals and then defining intermediate steps, you can make steady progress toward each of them. However, you must have that plan; otherwise, you could do a whole bunch of things that aren't that important. We recently talked about the Eisenhower matrix for exactly this purpose of helping you decide what you should spend time on.
  4. Remember to keep a sustainable pace. This means being intentional about taking regular breaks to recharge and return with renewed energy. It's a marathon, not a sprint at work, so you need to avoid pushing so hard you burn out.

When you manage your time well, you're setting a strong example for your team. You can then teach them what you've learned, and hopefully, you can also learn a few things from them, too.

Further reading:

Learn more about making the most of your time management by going deeper with these posts:

2) Spend more time being a multiplier for your team

As a manager, one of the most important equations to remember is that helping your team is often a better use of your time than focusing on yourself.

When you unblock an hour of your time, it's a fraction as powerful as doing the same for everyone on your team. That's because your efforts are multiplied when you help your team — your efforts compound across all of them. If you help five people save an hour, it's five times better than if you saved yourself an hour.

There are many ways you can be a multiplier, so let's see how many of these you have done:

  • Remove blockers. If things are preventing your team from moving forward and getting things done, removing those blockers and letting people know they're holding back your team is a great way to allow them to get more done, because they're not left waiting.
  • Cancel wasteful meetings. Every person who was attending a meeting benefits and gets time back when you cancel an unnecessary meeting.
  • Settle endless debates. As a leader, you are often the moderator. If you can settle a debate that never seems to be going anywhere, you can get your whole team to disagree and commit. This makes your team start making progress going forward instead of continuing to talk in circles.
  • Embrace new tools, especially AI. You can do many things faster than you may realize, especially with new AI tools. If you find a way that your entire team can use tools to get better, whether it be engineers using co-pilot to code faster, or AI tools to improve writing, you can help your whole team get more done.
  • Apply new methods that make you more productive. Think about systems or frameworks you and your team haven't used before. It's worth trying them for one project and seeing if it goes better. If so, keep it. If not, stop using it.
  • Listen to feedback and ideas from your team. You don't have to have all the ideas. Create an experiment-driven culture where your team gives feedback on what you try, and also brings new ideas everyone can benefit from.
  • Improve morale and engagement. When people are actively engaged, they're about 20% more productive and teams are about 20% more profitable according to Gallup research. That means that if you had a disengaged team of 5 that became engaged, you'd suddenly have a whole extra person's worth of productivity without hiring anyone.
  • Get rid of toxic people. If you have a jerk on your team, they're dragging everybody else down. Even if they seem really productive, they're likely holding their peers back. Getting rid of them will make everybody else more effective.

If you take the time to focus on clearing the way for your team, you'll find that many of your efforts can have a multiplicative effect. Rather than trying to tightly control everything, give your team the freedom to try new things and then have the rest embrace what works best.

Now, let's check other opportunities for growth as a leader.

A man reads a book as he wants to grow as a leader

3) Embrace self-directed learning

It's nice when someone lays out a clear curriculum for you and guides you through the process of growing. Unfortunately, leaders, especially mid-level managers or early-stage founders, rarely get something like that. That means it's on you to direct your learning on your own.

One of the best ways to grow as a leader is to read books and articles, not just on leadership, but on complementary topics like human behavior, habit change, and other similar topics related to understanding people better.

You should also look for opportunities to learn about leadership in other places, even beyond books and media. The opportunities for growing as a leader are all around you, if you look carefully:

  • Coach your child's team. I you can get a bunch of first-graders to do something, you can probably get adults to do that, too.
  • Help lead or organize a group or club. This exposes you to new people and ideas, which can also translate to your team at work.
  • Pay attention to how others lead around you. With a keen eye, you can see when others lead well and apply the best of what you see them do. For example, I love noting the tactics of great sports coaches when profiles come out or anecdotes are shared on broadcasts.

These tactics and learnings are all around you if you look, pay attention, and think about how you could integrate them into your own leadership style.

In the end, every leader is a little different. There are things that fit your style and things that don't.

Look for tactics you can slowly add to your repertoire. Expand your management skills by adding a tactic here and there that you saw others do or tried in another real-life environment that you can bring into your workplace.

The key across all of that is to challenge yourself to always build new skills. Leadership growth is a never-ending journey of learning, whether you need to adapt to a new generation of workers to engage, or get promoted at work with new responsibilities due to shifting projects and teams.

Further reading:

If you would like more ideas to direct your own learning and growth, consider these posts:

A woman reflecting on her failures so that she could grow as a leader

4) Take time to reflect & learn from failures and setbacks

One of the best things you can do for your leadership growth is to set aside time to reflect. With some of the prior tips, hopefully, you've cleared your schedule a bit, so you can use that new free time for reflection. Doing so semi-regularly is very powerful and can have a huge impact for you and your team.

This is especially important if you experience a failure or setback; view mistakes and failures as learning opportunities rather than something to be avoided. Lean into it and look for opportunities to learn and grow from it, which is how you then make sure it doesn't happen again.

When you take time to reflect, you'll want to:

  • Analyze what went wrong
  • Consider what you could have done differently
  • Determine how you can apply those lessons and changes going forward

You can also do this with your team by:

  • Having retrospectives
  • Conducting blameless postmortems
  • Encouraging your team to take time for personal reflection as well

The point is, by creating this culture of reflection, you can learn and improve, while ensuring that if something goes wrong, you'll get better from it.

When you reflect, you're in good company.

Many well known leaders take time regularly to reflect. It's a timeless lesson.

For example a story from Dale Carnegie's Classic, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" tells of a bank president who used a highly effective habit of weekly reflection:

"The president of an important Wall Street bank once described...a highly effective system he used for self-improvement. This man had little formal schooling; yet he had become one of the most important financiers in America, and he confessed he owed most of his success to the constant application of his homemade system:

For years I have kept an engagement book showing all the appointments I had during the day. My family never made any plans for me on Saturday night, for the family knew that I devoted a part of each Saturday evening to the illuminating process of self-examination and review and appraisal. After dinner I went off by myself, opened my engagement book, and thought over all the interviews, discussions and meetings that had taken place during the week. I asked myself:

  • "What mistakes did I make that time?"
  • "What did I do that was right - and in what way could I have improved my performance?"
  • "What lessons can I learn from that experience?" 
  • "What mistakes did I make that time?"
  • "What did I do that was right - and in what way could I have improved my performance?"
  • "What lessons can I learn from that experience?" 

As you can see, reflection is extremely powerful tactic to grow as a leader. If you can build your own routine like that, you'll improve rapidly. It forces the habit of looking back, not shying away from your problems, as well as recognizing positives you should continue or double down on.

Further reading:

Self-awareness is the secret sauce that makes reflection truly transformative. Learn how to develop it in our post "The Hardest Skill Of All For Managers To Learn And Build".

Build your leadership model to grow as a leader

5) Build your ideal leadership model

This may be a foreign term to you, but it's one you should become familiar with. The idea is that you recognize the leadership habits that define who you are as a leader — what fits your personality, style, and what you've seen work for you.

The best way to develop and improve your leadership model is something we hinted at earlier:

  • Observe other successful leaders in action.
  • Take note of their behaviors, communication styles, and decision-making processes.
  • Integrate those into yours when you feel they're a good fit for you.

This means you'll be experimenting with different leadership styles and techniques. Some will fit you and some you won't like.

The point is that you will adapt your style based on the situation and needs of your team.

Over time, you'll find that you can add to your repertoire so you're not reliant on a single tool or approach. You'll have multiple approaches to try in different situations, and you'll start to understand the nuance of leadership to help you know when various tactics apply best.

Build your invisible council.

Another aspect of leadership growth that can work really well is using the idea of "invisible counselors" from the classic book "Think and Grow Rich". Here is a video that briefly explains it:

The basics of this method are:

  1. Take people and leaders you admire, dead or alive, that you've read about.
  2. Imagine they are an internal counsel whose goal is to help and support you.
  3. Literally talk to that counsel and imagine what answers each of those people would give you on how to approach a problem, idea, or thing you're working through.
  4. Then, act on their advice as you see fit.

This "invisible counselors" method is a great way to get more perspectives as a leader, even without having to ask anybody outside of your own mind.

The point is you want to seek out diverse perspectives and helpful feedback. Use the ideas of others as a way to challenge your thinking and push you to grow as a leader, whether talking to someone real or in your imagination who you've studied.

The best thing you can do is embrace building out your leadership model by getting more perspectives, testing things, keeping what works, and discarding what doesn't.

Further reading:

A woman take a coach in order to grow as a leader

6) Get a coach or a mentor

A great way to accelerate your career growth is to get a coach or mentor to help you. Especially if you're recently promoted or hired for a new job, it's a great time to ask your company if they'll provide one or pay/reimburse you for one.

Best of all, if you work at a large company, many have mentorship programs that can help you grow as a leader.

But you won't know if they'll reimburse you, pay for a coach, or if there's a mentorship program unless you ask. So make sure you take the time to look into it, because you may be pleasantly surprised and find someone who can help transform your career.

Even if your company won't pay for a coach, and doesn't have a mentor program or someone they can connect you to, you can seek out your own mentors and coaches to provide the guidance, support, and first perspective you need.

The important thing is that regardless of how you acquire a coach, when you pick them, you need to be clear on what you want and take finding the right coach seriously. Do this by:

  • Speaking to several potential coaches and see who resonates best with you.
  • Knowing what you want to learn most and seeing which coach seems suited for those topics.
  • Evaluating their experience to see if it will bring helpful feedback, new perspectives, and whatever you need most.

Shop around so you find the best person. If you don't know what you want, realize you could end up with somebody who can't truly help you, or may even lead you astray.

To avoid that mishap, make sure you know what you're looking for before you start your search. Then once you start meeting with them, bring the same mindset of preparation to make the most of each of your sessions with them.

Further Reading:

If you need help with this, we have a whole series of posts to help you find and make the most of your mentors.

Leadership training

7) Make time for and invest in leadership training

Sometimes you need more structure than a coach can provide. It can be helpful to have a curriculum and a concrete plan so that you can grow as a leader.

It also can be easier for your company to pay for training than an ongoing coach, since coaching is an expense they have to pay every month.

To complement your other learning methods, keep an eye out for leadership workshops, seminars, and conferences to learn from, too. These will allow you to learn new skills, master the ones you understand a bit, and continue rounding out what you're doing to build your skills as a leader.

Best of all, if you need to convince your boss or others, there's data backing up the importance of investing specifically in leadership training:

So companies making this investment definitely see a good return.

You can experience that ROI, too by asking for more training, lobbying for it on behalf of you and your team, and ensuring you find training that resonates with what you want to learn most.

This is where Lighthouse can help you.

Our bite-sized leadership training programs make it possible even for the busiest managers to be successful and grow their skills.

We even have a program specifically designed for a mid-level leader like yourself called "The Secret Habits of Great Senior Leaders." It helps you master the skills you need to go from first time manager, to effective leader of a whole team of managers. It prepares you for the new challenges that presents, whether you aspire to rise to that level, or are already "learning as you go" in that role.

If you're interested in that program, or any of our seven others, you can check them out at

Final Word

Becoming a leader is the first step in an inspiring journey of personal growth and development.

One of the most important things you can do to succeed is to embrace the never-ending learning of new skills.

Growth in leadership always goes with new challenges, opportunities, and struggles. However, by embracing a learning mindset, and taking many different approaches to helping you learn and build new skills, you'll always stay ahead of the curve.

The only limitations on the ways you can grow as a leader are your own imagination and willingness to try new approaches.

Which of today's 7 approaches to leadership growth will you add to your development habits?

Jason Evanish

Jason Evanish

As the founder and CEO of Get Lighthouse, Inc, Jason and the Lighthouse team have helped managers grow their leadership skills in dozens of countries around the world. They’ve worked with a variety of companies from non-profits to high growth startups, and government organizations to well known, publicly traded companies. Jason has also been featured in publications including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company.

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