How Leaders Can Reach Their Full Potential – with Kevin Eikenberry

I spoke to Kevin Eikenberry about how leaders can reach their full potential, how they can get ahead without isolating their team, and how a leader’s ego can get in the way of their success. Eikenberry is a two-time bestselling author, speaker, consultant, trainer, coach, leader, learner, husband and father, and Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that has been helping organizations, teams and individuals reach their potential since 1993.

Dan Schawbel: How do you know what you’re capable of accomplishing?

Kevin Eikenberry : In short, you have no idea what you can accomplish until you try. It might sound trite, and like something your parents might have said to you (or you might say to your kids), but it is true.  Beyond this basic truth though is the fact that we are all capable of far more than we realize. Scientists tell us that we use very little of our brainpower, and I believe that as we harness more of that potential what is possible is quite literally awesome. So if you want to accomplish more, determine why that matters to you, and use that purpose as your driver, then by effort and belief, get ready to be amazed!

Schawbel: What strategies do you recommend for an ambitious leader, who is trying to get ahead without isolating their team?

Eikenberry : This is a great question. The reality is that in a leadership role you can’t get ahead without your team anyway – the biggest “strategy” is to change your mindset and approach.  Engage your team in a worthwhile venture and purpose and know that as the team wins, people will notice and your career possibilities will soar as well. The key here is to keep the right perspective – you succeed because of your team (and how you help/support them) not by competing with, alienating or ignoring them.

Schawbel: How does “ego” get in the way of a leaders success and what can they do about it?

Eikenberry : Confidence is incredibly important for us to succeed at our highest levels in any endeavor. And humility is equally important for long term sustainable success. This is not a paradox, because I can be confident in my ability and still humble about what I don’t know, what I still need to learn, how I can still improve.  None of this leaves much room for “ego”; at least “ego” in quotes as implied by the question! Leadership is never about us at all. Leadership is about the people we are leading and the goals we are pursuing. When we realize that our role is in service to others and the goal, the role of our ego will be properly managed. When that perspective is missed, forgotten or ignored, the risks of “ego” are great – starting with the problems in the previous question.

Schawbel: What daily habits do you need in order to accomplish your long term goals?

Eikenberry : First of all, this is the right question– if we want to get to your long term goals you do need to take regular action. A burst of effort is always wonderful, but too often we wait for inspiration to fuel those bursts. Daily action builds momentum, creates energy and helps us achieve goals more readily.  Here are some of the things I try to do – they’ve worked for me, for my mentors, and for those I have coached to use them as well.

  1. Review your goals daily.
  2. Read uplifting, positive material daily. This could be spiritual, motivational, or whatever works for you – something that lifts your spirit, creates energy and helps you take greater action.
  3. Plan your day the night before, including important goal related activities, not just the next thing on your set of ever-urgent tasks.
  4. Take a small step towards your long term goal every day. Make it your plan to not sleep until you have taken one action in the direction of your long term goals. The most productive, prolific and successful people all do this. The daily task might not be large, but it must be taken.

Schawbel: What obstacles will come up as you try and make things happen and how do you confront them?

Eikenberry : If we knew all of the obstacles before we started, it would be much easier to reach our goals! Since that rarely is the situation, here is what I do. Once a goal is set, start identifying possible barriers or obstacles. By trying to identify them early, we can begin to eliminating them up front, or build contingencies earlier rather than later. By engaging the team in this exercise you will identify more barriers and do a better job of having alternatives in place (or ready to deploy if needed). The added benefit of this, is that everyone is aware that obstacles will come – even if they aren’t the ones we’ve identified – and so when they do come, we will be better able mentally and emotionally to resolve and overcome them.

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