Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
1 Corinthians 9:24

Have you ever felt stagnant as a leader? Have you ever felt like you’re not getting anywhere? Have you ever begun to wonder why you’re leading at all?

No leader wants to peak.

And even fewer leaders want to peak early. I suppose at some point we all peak. But, personally, I’m shooting for that to happen at age 85…or 90. (God willing.)

Yet, peaking happens regularly in leadership; leaders who were great stop being great, even years (or decades) before they retire.

Why? How does that happen? How do you know if this is happening to you?

There are signs you can look for as a leader to determine if you may be peaking. It’s important to be aware of these signs because the leaders who peak are often the last to know it.

Here are a five signs you may have peaked as a leader.


1. You are no longer Curious

See H3 Leadership for more on “curiosity” which is defined as “keep learning”.

We have probably all heard the saying that leaders are learners, right? Being a great leader is really about being a great learner. Great leaders learn daily and often from a variety of sources. They learn about themselves, others around them, new trends. They stretch themselves to learning from new sources and/or in new ways.

So when do we transition from learning to being the expert? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Certainly there comes a time when we have learned enough and we can simply just dispense our advice to others.

As a leader the moment you think you have learned all there is to learn is the moment you begin to decline in your leadership. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t teach others. God gives us knowledge and understanding to share with others. The challenge here is in thinking we have learned all we can.

This is an insight that occurs in marriage as often in leadership see previous post on “making marriage work” and the sub-point “continuously learn” for more on this.

One way I challenge myself is through reading plans like the one I posted at the beginning of July and I challenge myself in what I am learning and where from. My learning style has a bent toward learning best by reading so I do more reading than listening to podcasts etc.

2. Your stories are about the past and not the future

Are all your best stories from 2 years ago…or longer? It may be a sign you’ve peaked as a leader.

As a leader you should have an ambition for “what’s next?” What hill can we conquer next? If you find yourself focused too much on the past begin to dream about what a better tomorrow can look like for you and your organization. Here are a few action steps you can take as a leader to be more future focused and creative:
  1. Question the default.
  2. Triple the number of ideas you generate.
  3. Immerse yourself in a new domain.
  4. Seek more feedback from peers.
For more ideas on how to be creative and innovative, see my previous post from Originals: how non-conformists move the world

3.  You are not engaged in healthy relationships

We simply cannot reach our potential without healthy relationships. I believe that relationships allow us the ability to go further than we can on our own. And with the right relationships it keeps us from peaking and to go further than we thought possible. We cannot live fully alive apart from loving connection with others.

Relationship, the connection between people, not only enhances our mental functioning, but actually works to impart it, to provide it. Capacity is built through energy and intelligence. I love the definition of energy that Siegel uses , borrowing a phrase from physicists. It is “the capacity to do something.

People give energy, and they take it away. Know the difference and plan accordingly.

Because of our relational design we cannot change without the presence of others. We are created for and by relationships.

The right kind of relationship will bring us to new levels of challenge and growth.

Here are a few books to explore this factor further:

  1. The Power of the Other
  2. The Relational Soul
  3. The Emotionally Healthy Leader


4. You always say (or think), “Yeah, that’s not going to work”

As a leader, overtime you begin to understand a few things that work and don’t work which begins to form a framework. It’s easy to fall for the lie that what got you here will get you there and to easily dismiss ideas that may not have worked in a past season.

If you’re peaking as a leader, you will end up holding onto your ‘successful’ ideas and ignoring others. I have come to learn that ideas that may not have worked in the past doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t work in the future. There is a seasonality to ideas. Some are ideas that are premature. Instead, table ideas that are better suited for later into a someday/maybe folder. This allows you to not dismiss the ideas altogether but to being open to them at some later time.

See “That’s Not How We Do It Here” for more info.

5. You’ve lost your hustle

The best leaders hustle to be the best stewards of the time given to them.

Regardless of how long you have been leading, is your leadership defined by a passion that is evidenced in hustle?

 Here are several ways that hustle is evidenced in your leadership:

  • Excellence: Set standards that scare
  • Stick-with-it-ness: Take the long view
  • Execution: Commit to completion
  • Team Building: Create an environment that attracts and retains the best and brightest
  • Partnership: Collaborate with colleagues and competitors
  • Margin: Nurture healthier rhythms
  • Generosity: Leave the world a better place
  • Succession: Find power in passing the baton
 A few books to expand your understanding of this:

Three Antidotes Against Peaking

There could be other antidotes but I would start with exploring these three: humbleness, curiosity & healthy relationships.

Humbleness will keep you from thinking you have learned all there is to learn. It will keep you open to learn from others.

And curiosity will keep you fresh. It will keep you asking questions, keep you learning and keep you listening. If you are not a reader there are some simple steps you can take to learn to read more!

Healthy relationships will help you develop both of these skills of curiosity and humbleness while challenging you positively in many other areas of your life and leadership. God designed us to need others.

Together, humbleness, curiosity & seeking out healthy relationships will keep you leading others well!

What Do You Think?

What are some other signs that you’ve peaked as a leader? Scroll down and leave a comment.