Destroying Potential

July 21, 2014

learn more about maxwell leadership

explore our strength leader services

You'll also love

tell me more

I'm Deb- CEO, worldwide executive coach, mentor, consultant and speaker. I'm here to help you take your leadership and impact to the next level!

Meet Deb

hand with falling building blocksI have some pretty smart friends who will be sharing a slice of their leadership lens here on my blog. This week it is my friend James Woosley.  Enjoy his insightful post! – Deb


Destroying Potential 

It is a time for leaders to start the process of destruction, and I want you to specifically target the potential of your people.


That’s right, I want you to destroy their potential.


Why? Because each of the people you are leading has something inside of them, and it’s just waiting to burst.


Like the potential locked inside a stick of dynamite, a leader is the spark that sets energy in motion to explode.


But when you allow that dynamite to sit on a shelf, locked away and it is never used, it becomes old and unstable.  At best, it rots, it loses the power it once contained, and does nothing.  At worst, it becomes unstable and ignites whoever and wherever it happens to go off.


If you see potential in your people,  your number one job as a leader is to help them realize that potential.  And the only way to do that is to destroy it.  Once the potential is used…once the achievements locked deep down inside have been accomplished, that potential has been destroyed.  It doesn’t exist anymore as potential because it’s real.


Thankfully new potential emerges and is ready to be nurtured for the good of your organization.


Here are five simple ways to explode your team’s potential:

1)  Tell Them – Sometimes the only spark needed is for you to tell them what you see.  We all have blind spots.  Leaders can and should point them out.  It’s the equivalent of saying “I believe in you” – and who doesn’t like to hear that?


2)  Let Them Lead- Leaders are often talented doers and those talents are port of the reason you get to lead now.  But leaders need to let others lead in order to grow more leaders.  Leading real project, even if they fail, will be worth more than most training programs you send them to.


3)  Be Them – If there’s a chance you’ve lost touch with what your people do, it’s time to plug back in and understand again. Take a day and do the work with them. Get your hands dirty. You’ll gain perspective and if your interest is authentic, you’ll grow real relationship.


4) Be Accessible – The “ivory tower” is very real and very dangerous. If you only ever hear from your direct reports, you won’t have the full picture of your business. Open your door, open your ears, and open you mind.  Some of those ” underlings” are geniuses.


5)  Coach Them – When you find true potential, take an active role. Invite them into meetings they might otherwise never witness. Ask their opinion and give them direct feedback. Push them to extract the value locked under the surface.


All of this is based on the concept of positive potential. But negative potential exists as well. If your people are dangerous, stupid, or just careless, they are an unstable volatile element in your organization. Sometimes negative potential can be destroyed through training and education. But if that doesn’t work, it’s best to chuck it as far away as possible so it can go off somewhere that won’t hurt you.


Do you have any other ideas on how leaders can destroy potential to grow their team members?




James Woosley


James Woosley is the author of Conquer the Entrepreneur’s Kryptonite: Simple Strategic Planning for You  and Your Business.  He wears a variety of leadership hats as a father of two, husband of one (co-leadership for sure), small business coach, project management consultant, school board vice-president, and executive board member of the Alabama Association of School Boards.  Find him online at WoosleyCoaching.com or @JamesWoosley on twitter


  1. Thanks for giving me the wheel for a day here at StrengthLeader, Deb! You know how to destroy me in the best possible way!

  2. jodyberkey says:

    I had to do a double take with “destroy their potential” then go back to the start to read more carefully. Always the thought provoker, James!

  3. Diana Bader says:

    Very wise advice. Unstable is never good in any situation.