Recently I hosted a breakfast session where the guest speaker was a well-respected senior leader. He’s regarded as a future CEO and has an impressive track record of delivering results, working across boundaries in gnarly situations, and developing people. And he’s never done any formal leadership training.

The focus of his presentation was his own leadership development journey. What forces and activities had shaped him into the leader he is today?

Here’s what made the difference:

  1. He actively thought about what he wanted to excel at a leader
  2. He deliberately sought out ‘stretch’ experiences that would test his abilities and beliefs
  3. He had bosses and mentors who believed in him, helped facilitate his development opportunities, and provided feedback and reflection time.

Decide. Do. Connect. Reflect. Or something like that. He took it upon himself to grow, and he sought out the experiences and people who could help make it happen.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes for people to be this deliberate and, you could say, courageous. I came across this video with Keith Eigel talking about leadership development. Right at the end, I think he nails it: “the people who accelerate their development…are those folks who seize the intentional little challenges every single day.”

Here’s another good post by Penelope Trunk on the same idea.

Try putting this approach into practice for yourself:

  • What’s one thing you want to excel at as a leader?
  • What (scary) experiences can you seek out today that will test you in this area?
  • Who can help you step back and reflect on what you’re learning?

I’d love to hear what you try and what you learn. Get in touch with me at


Like this post? You’re only getting half the story. Sign up to my ‘Fresh Thinking’ newsletter, delivered monthly to your inbox.