“While personal maturity may mean being able to see beyond yourself, leadership maturity means considering others before yourself.” John C. Maxwell, author, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

One of the potential deal breakers, when considering a candidate for internal promotion or external hire, is a lack of leadership maturity.

The hesitation comes because of the length of time and practice, and amount of consistent coaching and candid feedback from trusted colleagues, required to see improvement.

However, it’s important not to give up too easily on talented people, and to help up-and-coming leaders to fully develop and embrace the combination of skills and practice required, early in their career. Improvements can be made for those willing and committed to embrace the leadership journey.

Leadership maturity results from accomplishment in a variety of competencies which inspire others to do their best work, and instills confidence that you are all heading the right direction. This includes demonstrating integrity, credibility, composure, empathy, patience, trustworthiness and strategic thinking on-the-fly.

Even natural-born leaders can benefit from further development and study. And age has nothing to do with it: I’ve met 30-year olds with mature leadership skills and 50-year olds who had none.

I look back on my young days of leadership and recall just how immature I was, unaware of how I showed up or how my style was perceived by others. Thankfully, I was surrounded by colleagues and executives who were willing to share tough feedback.

Leaders lacking maturity can:

  • Be unaware of their impact on others
  • Give colleagues an impression that their opinions do not matter
  • Not listen to others, lack patience and frequently interrupt others
  • Expect others to adapt to their style, while not working to adapt their own
  • Lean on emotions during challenges and stressful situations, rather than work with the facts
  • Lack composure
  • Communicate ineffectively, across the organization.

Critical Competencies

It’s important to appreciate and thoroughly understand the attributes of strong leaders, and to explore and discuss critical skillsets openly. Be curious about what’s missing, rather than what’s wrong.

To help to assess and coach talent, I like to use one of the many Topgrading™ techniques referencing the 50 Critical Competencies* that Brad Smart’s research identified over 30 years ago. Brad, acknowledged as the world’s top hiring expert, developed the Topgrading methodology.

The chart below lists some of the in-combination competencies related to Leadership Maturity. Note that Self-Awareness and Communication Skills are the only ones that are fairly easy to change and learn.

leadership maturity matrix

* Topgrading™ 3rd Edition reference

The good news is that when self-awareness and communication skills improve, other competencies do, as well. And, with commitment, giving and receiving feedback gets easier, helps leaders to mature, and decreases the chance of limiting career advancement, down the road.

And of course, when you are willing and courageous enough to take the feedback and do something about it, it makes all the difference in the world.

The Challenge

[1] Do a quick self-assessment:

  • How self-aware are you about your level of maturity?
  • Have you asked for feedback on things you could do better or differently?
  • Do you understand how you or your leadership style is perceived by others?
  • Do you patiently listen when others share ideas?

[2] Set a goal to read one book per quarter and practice new approaches on the job

[3] Get practical advice, tools and resources in Your Oxygen Mask First

PS If you need help to understand you or your team’s blind spots, ask us about insightful, constructive 360 Reviews.

Suggested Reading:

Here’s a selection of books and articles that will further decode the mystery of leadership maturity:

  • What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith (Self-Awareness, Leadership)
  • Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, John Maxwell (Self-Awareness, Leadership, Management)
  • 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell (Self-Awareness, Leadership, Management)
  • Radical Candor, Kim Scott (Communication, Feedback, Leadership).

Lawrence & Co Advisor Michelle LaVallee is a Topgrading Champion who has supported international companies, across multiple industries, to achieve at least 85% A-Players in the midst of rapid growth.