The Six Chapters of Every Leader’s Journey

The leadership journey has six distinct chapters

#1. Chapter one: Believe YOU have something to offer.

Why try – if you don’t believe you matter?

Everything begins with belief.

“The first person you have to believe in is you.” Barry Posner

Don’t worry that you don’t have enough. Believe in yourself enough to pour out what you have.

In order to believe in yourself you must:

  1. Know and accept who you are. Jim Parker, retired CEO of Southwest Airlines told me, “If I could say one thing to young leaders, I’d say know yourself.”
  2. Identify and unreservedly embrace your values.
  3. Recognize when and how you make your best contribution.
  4. Know how you would like to make a difference.


  • Self-belief is arrogance until you acknowledge you need others.
  • Self-belief is bravado if you think failure happens to others, but not you.

#2. Chapter two: Engage in leadership activities.

Get busy. Don’t wait for more experience. Forget about feeling like you have it all together.

Tom Peters says, “Try stuff.”

Confused leaders think they have it all together. The best leaders keep learning they have more to learn. They don’t have it all together.

#3. Chapter three: Learn leadership skills and behaviors.

Skill development isn’t chapter one. Learn as you go, not before you go.

Even though you begin with self-belief and getting busy, remember that learning is essential to success.

Self-belief and getting busy lead to ineffective practices and disappointment apart from skill development.

#4. Chapter four: Respond to adversity and disappointment with openness and resolve.

You’re going to face adversity, disappointment, setbacks, and failure. Chapter four is the tipping point on your leadership journey.

Temptation to blame when adversity strikes derails leaders. Blame comes from self-justification and leads to bitterness.

People disappoint. You screw up. Plans won’t work.

Responding to challenge, disappointment, and adversity is more important than the type of crucible you face.

The fire – adversity, disappointment, or challenge – wants to remake you. When you resist the fire, you forfeit who you might become.

Ask the crucible, “Who do you want me to become?”

You learn what works when you succeed, but adversity instigates growth.

The last two chapters of your leadership journey:

#5. Humility

#6. Kindness

If you pass through the crucible successfully, you will become humble and kind. This isn’t about being weak. It’s about tenderness of heart.

Leaders who skillfully pass through adversity become humble and kind. Leaders who resist and miss crucible-lessons become arrogant and hardhearted.

All six chapters may be active simultaneously. Young leaders tend to follow the chapters in sequence. All leaders are always in at least one of the six chapters of the leadership journey.

What chapters do you see on the leadership journey?

What advice do you have for a leader who is in chapter four of his/her journey?


*I suspend my 300 word limit on weekends