Stagnation in Leadership: Avoiding the Dangers of Still Water

Are you familiar with the dangers of stagnant water?

You see, water that we find outdoors, like all things, can either move (be flowing) or sit still (be stagnant). And although home access to water has largely removed the need for us to drink from outdoor water sources, many worldwide must still seek out hydration beyond the walls of their homes…

…but never from stagnant water.


Because still water isn’t being stimulated, pollutants are able to settle and thrive. When water stops flowing, it becomes a safe haven for bacteria and parasites that can wreak havoc on the human body. Mosquitos also love to lay eggs in still water, which can contaminate the water with any diseases they are carrying, like malaria.

Stagnation means contamination.

How appropriate and enlightening, then, that us human beings are more than 50% water…

When we are school-aged, our teachers determine our curriculum for us. They decide what teaching we receive and monitor how it impacts our output by testing us and grading us. 

After we graduate and start work at an organization, they set an onboarding plan for us. They provide us with training so that we can prepare for our roles and perform evaluations to make sure we’re applying what we learn. And our managers continue to train us so that we can help improve our team’s results.

But then, when we get to leadership… who directs our growth? Who monitors our progress?

Who “keeps our water flowing?”

American pastor Rick Warren has said, “All leaders are learners. The moment you stop learning, you stop leading. I learn as much as I can, from as many as I can, as often as I can.”

As leaders, our foremost responsibility is to develop our team. When we help them develop their potential – both personally and professionally – we influence our teams to better fulfill the organization’s strategic initiatives while also helping them feel seen and valued as people.

But we cannot give what we are not getting.

Unless we are growing, learning, and developing, we are limited in our ability to do that for others – and no one is going to make our growth a priority but us.

So, what is your plan for the new year?

How much time will you put aside to develop yourself? When will you commit to your growth? And how often? How much money will you budget for your learning? What areas of improvement will you intentionally focus on?

If you don’t have a plan yet, consider how you could develop in these key areas:

1. Emotional intelligence.

After decades of speaking to nations, writing bestselling books, and leading organizations of hundreds, Dr. John Maxwell wrote The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. #10 is the Law of Connection: leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.

People become invested in the person of their leader before they become invested in the role, mission, or vision of their leader. Becoming aware of yourself and of others – the definition of emotional intelligence – is a cornerstone of leadership.

2. Communication.

What is the purpose of a team? It’s to come together to accomplish a task that is bigger than any one member. A group of people working as one can accomplish much more than they could individually.

The one thing making that team dynamic happen is communication. Without communication, all you have is a handful of individuals working on their own projects with the same company name on their paychecks.

3. Coaching for performance.

Soft skills are often undersold in importance to leadership. But at the end of the day, performance directly impacts results. Focusing on the actions and processes that have the greatest yield improves the overall effectiveness of the team.

Focusing on one of these areas, or all three, will set you up for success in 2023 and beyond.

Or, if you’re looking for more personalized insights on areas where you could improve, you can take a free leadership and communication assessment at my website.

Here’s to a new year and a new level of results!

That’s all for now,