I wish I could do more.
I hear that statement a lot from leaders around the world.
The demands on their time, their skills, and their presence are always
escalating, always making it seem like there’s never enough of the leader to go
Usually, the emphasis is on the more in that sentence: I wish I could do more.
More meetings, more coaching, more decisions, more vision-casting. The escalation is in outputs, checked-off boxes that make those around us feel better. We end up scheduling ourselves to the nth degree, increasing our activity while not necessarily increasing our accomplishment.
The more that we’re chasing isn’t wrong. It’s the impulse
that leaders have when they’re chasing their best. I define it in The 15
Laws of Growth as The Law of Expansion: Growth always increases your
It’s part of our journey as leaders—as we grow, we expand
our capacity, and with expanded capacity comes increased output. But
increasing our output doesn’t correlate with increasing our impact—sometimes,
to do more, we need to do different.
In my teaching on the The Law of Expansion, I cover the two
areas where leaders must increase their capacity: thinking and action. I’ll
talk more about thinking in my blog next week, so let me spend some time on how
you as a leader can increase your capacity for action.
There are three steps you must take to expand your capacity
- STOP Doing Only Those Things You’ve Done
Before and START Doing Only Those Things You Could and Should Do
The first step toward success is becoming good at what you know how to do, but
once you’ve mastered what you know, you begin to discover other things you could do. Doing what you’ve done before increases your efficiency, but it doesn’t do
much for your capacity. Doing new things leads to innovation and new
discoveries, which yields new things that you should be doing—things
that likely replace those things you’ve done before.
- STOP Doing What is Expected and START Doing
What is Unexpected
Let me go ahead and clear this up: what most people never expect is to have
their expectations exceeded. What others define as a ceiling, you define as a
floor, and then seek to go up from there. Being a leader who gives in to the
inertia of the daily routine, the same old same old, may allow you to be
efficient but it will never allow you to be effective. You must push past the
minimum and seek to do something beyond what’s expected. Show up early. Stay
late. Listen well. Praise more. Reward faithfully. Share willingly. In a world
where leaders are expected to disappoint, be the leader who delights.
- STOP Doing Important Things Occasionally and
START Doing Important Things Daily
If it’s important, it’s worth doing. That’s the leader’s mindset. Yet so often
we surrender our time to the urgent or the pressing or the “needed” instead of
to what’s important. To do what’s not important each day yields nothing for you
or your leadership; it merely uses up your time. And to do what’s important
only occasionally doesn’t lead to the consistency that compounds into results.
You must do what is important daily if you want to achieve expansion in your
Have you been feeling the pressure to do more as a leader?
If so, let me encourage you to intentionally invest time in expanding your
capacity to act. Doing the things you should be doing, doing them beyond
anyone’s expectations, and doing it daily is the key to expanding your capacity
in ways you can’t yet imagine.
I’ve said it for years and it’s still true: the world is not made better by our intentions; it is made better by our intentional actions. As leaders, we must do more, but we must do more of what makes us better. We must increase our capacity for helpful and productive action.
John Maxwell Leadership Podcast