The True Leader
There are countless moments each day when we have the choice
to be a follower or a leader. We may have vague ideas on what it means to lead, and often they are confused managing. Being in
charge of other people- that’s leadership, right? Well, not exactly.
Having researched leadership extensively, I would like to
share the most contemporary and effective framework. It’s called Transformational Leadership. Simply put,
a transformational leader inspires within another person the same desire to
fulfill a task that she possesses. Management tells another person what to do-
leadership leaves that person telling you that they want to do it. The
difference may seem insignificant, but at the end of the day, it’s the difference
between chores and joy.
I’ll give an example from my field of sport. A typical coach
in today’s culture yells frequently and delivers commands to his players, who
show up to practices just so they don’t get cut. A transformational coach
creates an environment in which the game has become the prize, because it’s
just so fun. His players want to
play, and they arrive early to practice with smiles on their faces. What’s the
difference? In both scenarios, the athletes are attending practice. In the
second example, there are no leaders and followers- the players have become self-leaders,
motivated just as much as their coach.
You may say, I’m not a coach, and I don’t manage people.
However, every day is an opportunity to stand up and lead. Raising children, working,
personal relationships, side projects, you name it.
I will summarize four basic steps you can take to shift from
being a follower or manager into becoming a transformational leader.
1. Go inside
Reflect on your Self, your life, and your
own journey. Who has inspired you in your life? On the other
hand, who has deflated you? Which person do you want to be for others, and how
will that choice change your behavior? In order to transform others, we must
first transform ourselves. Becoming a more conscious human being is essential.
Take a moment and make a list of true leaders in your own life. Write down the
qualities that you find important. Then write a little about a negative
experience you’ve had, and how that felt. For example, a first grade teacher
telling you that your drawing stinks.
2. Be Transparent
When you’ve begun to reflect on your own
life experiences, it’s time to start sharing. That’s not to say you have to go
about telling everyone where your birth mark is. Really, all that is required
is realness and honesty. We have an idea in our culture that sharing our
weaknesses and trials makes us weak. In truth, it lets others know that we are human. This leads me to number three.
3. Be Relational
What is the core of humankind? (Hint: it’s
actually not money). Relationships, my friend! Ask how you’re colleague is
doing, and listen to the answer. In sport we call it stepping into their lives. When you really care about the person
beyond what they can do for you, and
you ask what you can do for them, a shift will happen. Have you ever remembered
someone’s name, and they are shocked that you actually remembered? Even this
4. Moral Courage
When it comes time to speak, do it. When
something is wrong and you want to stand, stand. I use the word courage because
in our culture there is a great deal of inertia, and going against the grain
can be scary. To be a leader, though, you simply must rise when others sink. Otherwise,
you are a follower. This doesn’t mean getting angry about a cause and preaching
to all your loved ones (please don’t). An example from my own life has been my adamancy
to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle. I never talked about it or preached,
however I did withstand incredible amounts of ostracism from family and friends
for the first few years. It wasn’t easy, but I persisted. Now, several of my
friends and various family members are also vegetarians. Trust me, I am not a
proselyte. They made the decision for
themselves because it was right, and my initial act of standing up paved the
Now, get out there and be the leader you are meant to be!