The Infinite Potential of a Person

In a recent ‘tweet’ I made the following statement: “The infinite potential of a person is so spectacular that assisting just one to realise this could make your life’s work complete”. This statement directly relates to all individuals in the ‘leadership field’ and of course includes by definition the importance of ‘parent leadership’.

Let us use our imagination.

Imagine for a moment that you have a youngster working for you and that you can suddenly foresee that he/she will one day be the President of your country. Or imagine you can suddenly foresee that your child will one day lead the largest business in the world. So by some miracle you didn’t know this about them yesterday but today you are given a moment to see into their future. What potential impact could this realisation have on your behaviour towards the employee or the child?

I simply believe this: Every single human being is capable of the “impossible” and has an infinitely spectacular potential inside them. Ironically, with all this potential inside us we struggle to comprehend it in those around us because – despite our potential – we are also limited in so many ways – we cannot see one minute into the future; our memory fades the further back we try to remember the past; and we even struggle to be present, in the moment when we need to.

Because of this basic human trait and our many insecurities, our weaknesses, our lack of knowledge, vision and perspective, we most likely damage or in some cases crush that very potential of people around us – we may mock their dreams, limit their thinking, belittle to make ourselves feel better, break down rather than build up, doubt, gossip, comment negatively, feel threatened or intimidated by extraordinary potential, to name but a few. Bottom-line: We limit ourselves. We limit others.

Simply put, we as ‘leaders’ do not allow those placed under our stewardship to blossom, be empowered and explode into their full potential – to become one with their true unique and powerful authentic self.

Sadly, our own unseen incomprehensible potential may very well be offset by our inability to see and awaken it in one another.

If we can’t even see one minute into the future, is it any wonder that we struggle to believe in greatness, somewhere in the future?

Because we remember less and less the further back we cast our minds, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that our past becomes the biggest millstone around our necks.   

And our inability to be present and truly listen with our minds, hearts and spirits can only lead to insecure, unwanted, attention seeking human beings who are then distracted by distorted motives.

We have to somehow develop an awareness that has power to overcome and change this. How do we overcome the above dilemma? I will propose a formula for leaders, all of us – parents, managers, politicians, teachers – that may help turn the tide:

  • Awaken your own realisation of your own potential. It is impossible to inspire others of their amazing potential when it’s not clear to them that you are already on this journey. But at the same time realise that your potential is somehow inextricably linked to helping others achieve theirs. Achieving full potential is never a selfish quest. You cannot get the absolute best out of others when you are not comfortable inside your own skin; when you are insecure within yourself; or self-absorbed.
  • Listen – really listen! Parents don’t really listen to their children – they are too busy and under constant pressure; teachers don’t listen to students – they too are busy and under pressure; managers don’t listen to employees – yes, they too are under constant pressure and scrutiny; politicians don’t listen to their constituency; and so on. The greatest human need out there is to be listened to. And because people are not listened to they find strange, ‘loud’ and even self-destructive ways to be heard.
  • Assume that every person you work with is destined for greatness. Treat people with utmost respect, patience and kindness, as if they are already that President, CEO, top tennis player. Treat them the way you would someone you view as important – the CEO of your company; the President of your country (even if you don’t like the person). But, do not confuse this with expecting low standards. ‘Respect them enough to expect the best’.
  • Make them part of the solution. When people are part of the solution, rather than being told what to do they develop their thinking capacity, their processing skills, and their ability to resolve issues. And when they are part of the solution they feel ownership. When asked questions as a parent or leader, don’t be too quick to demonstrate your wisdom and experience. First give them the opportunity to respond.
  • Find a way to remember this principle. I often find that I realise something remarkable, but as life moves forward at breakneck pace the learning fades. I must turn the principle into a daily mantra, or do whatever I can to somehow keep it top of mind.

In short, treat others as you want to be treated. And remember: “The infinite potential of a person is so spectacular that assisting just one to realise this could make your life’s work complete”

Adriaan Groenewald



Do you recognise some areas in yourself as a leader or areas in your team that need improvement?

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Adriaan Groenewald is a leadership expert and commentator.

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