Every leader needs to intentionally surround himself with people who can bring out his best potential. There are all kinds of “draining” and “weakening” people in your life – simple fact of life. You’re called to lead and serve some of them. That’s another fact of life. To lead to your full potential, and continue growing your potential, you need a specific set of people around you. There are five types:
Teachers – for learning specific skills and capabilities. You do not yet have all the skills you need, because life is a grand adventure. Teachers can be in-person or at a distance. An online teacher may not even be aware that they are teaching you in particular. Over time you’ll have many teachers.
Coaches – for improving your performance with the skills you have. Everyone needs feedback and ideas for improving. Coaches generally need some personal interaction.
Mentors – for wisdom and example through life-on-life interactions. Mentoring is highly relational and cannot be accomplished without presence and transparency. Mentoring is distinctly different than teaching and coaching, but many of your mentors will provide instruction and coaching.
(See my article for more suggestions about finding mentors.)
Partners & colleagues – these are your peers and fellows, running life’s adventure with you or alongside you. Insecure and immature leaders see them as zero-sum competitors (“There can be only one!”). Wise leaders understand that a network of partners and colleagues can accomplish much, much more than a single individual. Watch them, study them, work together on problems and projects – learning all the while. Much of the potential joy in our work comes through associations with partners and colleagues.
Teachable people – there are simply some things which you cannot fully learn until you teach others. Teaching is a good for your leadership development. It expands your thinking, sharpens your communication skills, and gives you opportunities to practice interpersonal relationships. Craftsmen grow and develop as they share their craft with the generations coming along after them.
A network of these five types of people is essential for maximizing your leadership potential. Do an inventory of the people in your life and take steps to fill in the gaps.