Are you interested in growing as a leader, or just in getting ahead? In my job as a leadership coach, I see lots of people who want to advance. But my work is much easier--and the odds of moving ahead are much better--when the person I'm coaching wants to be coached and is focused on their own growth instead of an outcome they can't fully control.  

Here are seven opportunities to grow as a leader, the more closely you follow them, the better your chances of success.

1.    Identify your motivation.

How you feel about yourself starts with how motivated you are. It takes self-motivation to remove the obstacles that keep you from developing and growing--and ultimately all motivation is self-motivation. Before you can grow as a leader, you must know the "why" behind your drive. Once you do, you will know the way.

2.    Unmask your flaws.

To conquer your flaws, you must first accept them. Once you know your weaknesses, no one else can use them against you, and you're better prepared to grow as a leader. Everyone has flaws, but when you understand your own you can embrace all of who you are.

3.    Learn from your failures.

Growing as a leader means developing the ability and willingness to have your failures shape you. Failure is instructive--it allows you as a leader to learn. We all fall down, but failure means we refuse to get back up and deal with our issues.

4.    Appreciate feedback.

No one likes hearing that they've done something wrong, but try to view all feedback as a gift, an opportunity to develop. The best leaders realize feedback helps them improve so they can do better. We all need people in our lives who can give us feedback; seek it with sincerity and receive it with grace.

5.    Listen to those with more experience.

Listen to the experienced people in your life--not because they're always right, but because they have a better understanding of being wrong. To grow in wisdom you need to pay attention to those who have experience. They can teach you to listen when you want to speak, to stop and think when you want to react, to keep trying when you want to quit. And each of those little steps will help you grow into a great leader.

6.    Refuse to settle for mediocrity.

Don't allow your fears to limit you to mediocrity. If you want to pursue excellence, it takes hard work. If you want to go beyond what's expected, you have to evolve and grow to advance and make progress. The best leaders--the ones who really want to grow--never settle for mediocrity. They understand that good enough is not good enough.

7.    Invest in yourself.

If you're truly interested in growth, create an environment in which you can invest in yourself so you can be at your best. Make time to read; surround yourself with clever people and experts. Investing in yourself pays high dividends, because when you feel good about yourself you are more motivated to work hard and succeed and grow.

At the end of the day, you'll take one of two paths as a leader: either you'll step forward into growth or backward into safety. The choice is yours.