5 Things Successful Leaders Must Leave Behind To Move Forward

If you're unsure what to leave behind in order to take your leadership skills to the next level here' a look at five areas to consider.

Photo: Ken Gosnell, CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience); Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Ken Gosnell, CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience); Source: Courtesy Photo

British scholar and novelist C.S. Lewis, known for his famed works the Chronicles of Narnia, once penned, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

He was speaking of the afterlife (i.e. life after death), but his statement also rings true pragmatically for leaders in this one. I have found the best leaders are those that can leave behind in order to move ahead.

Simply put, great leaders know when and what to leave behind in order to move forward.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for leaders to get stuck at a certain level of their leadership and never master the next level. Leadership author and expert John Maxwell calls this principle the Law of the Lid. The secret to overcoming our lid in leadership is to examine habits that hold leaders back. If you’re unsure what to leave behind in order to take your leadership skills to the next level here’ a look at five areas to consider.


What successful leaders must leave behind


1. Successful leaders shed past defeats

Every leader will face setbacks and failures. A successful leader learns from mistakes, but they do not stay stuck agonizing over them. Instead, they encourage failure and risk-taking with the wisdom that mistakes make way for a better path forward. Thomas Edison said it best when asked about his 10,000 failures while creating the lightbulb by noting, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


2. Great leaders silence inner and outward critics

The words of a critic can be hard to hear. Hurtful words can stay lodged in the minds of leader for years. Every great leader has been faced with words such as: “You cannot do it” or “You are not good enough.” If we’re not careful, hurtful words can stop us from breakthroughs.

Admittedly, sometimes we can be our own worst critics. However, successful leaders learn how to silence the voice of the critic in their head and those around them. They do not allow empty words to stop them from doing what they know they can do.


3. Remarkable leaders remove detractors who don’t believe in them or their dreams

Innovators see a better and different tomorrow. As a result, every leader will face opposition from individuals that do not believe in their vision and mission (a.k.a. detractors). Successful leaders know how to defeat and overcome detractors that would seek derail their dream.

However, detractors serve a dual purpose. Perspective, clarifies the notion that detractors can strengthen our resolve. Those that oppose us make us sharper in our thoughts, more intentional in our actions, and more deliberate in our decision making. Yet, a wise leader never lets the disbelief of a detractor cause doubt in their vision of the future.


4. Effective leaders eliminate distractions

Business author of Good to Great, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins has said, “If you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any.” He is speaking of the importance of focus when it comes to leadership success. Leaders must learn how to overcome distractions. Distractions derail and defeat the dreams of undetermined leaders.

Effective leaders are determined leaders. They stay committed to completing the task at hand. They don’t become distracted by seemingly urgent or important things of the moment. As a leader, consider if you can quickly state your top three priorities.


5. Purpose driven leaders shed thoughts of disbelief

All great accomplishments start with belief. Management author Peter Drucker has said, “In every success story, you will find someone who has made a courageous decision.” In other words, every great leader believed in something greater before it was great.

Do you still believe in the “greater” that is inside of you? Wise leaders choose to believe in their purpose, and shed limiting mindsets and disbelief.


In order to become a great leader you must master the art of leaving behind. To grow a successful business develop a  clear idea of where you would like to go, and be willing to let go of things that might hinder your ability to move forward. Ultimately, leaders who experience success will leave some things behind to move ahead.


Ken Gosnell is the CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience). He serves leaders by helping them to have great experiences that both transform them and their organizations that enable to go further faster. He has worked with hundreds of CEOs and leadership teams to enhance strategic, operational and people accomplishments. He is an author, coach, and strategic partner with CEOs. Ken is the creator and facilitator of the Christian CEO Linkedin Group and creator of the CEO Experience Impact Assessment. He is married to Shonda, and they have four children. Connect with @ken_gosnell on Twitter.


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