29 Jul, 2018

The New Dawn Of Leadership

There is a strange myth that has developed around the concept of leadership. It seems to be viewed as a magical power that is granted to a select few at birth so that, at the right time, they can appear and influence history. It certainly seems that way when you consider the great leaders of the 20th Century. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa… The world needed a leader and they stepped up to fill the vacancy just as it was created.

Leaders are made not born

Except this is a case of backwards thinking. They did not emerge at the right time because the time was right for change. They saw the change that was needed and developed themselves into a position to make it happen.

Leadership is not a ‘thing’ and leaders are not ‘born’. However if leadership was a commodity it would be the most valuable one in the world.

There is no DNA of leadership and leadership skills are not in your blood. Leadership is something that is developed over time and being a great leader is seldom the destination. It’s developed in most cases by having a burning desire to make some change in the world – to reach some other destination. Being the leader who is needed to make that change is a necessary process of growth and development which continues and continues and continues.

Not born then, but exceptional leaders do have things in common. They have abandoned the Victorian, hierarchical view of leadership as ‘carrot and stick’ – obliging those around them to ‘do as I say’ or face the consequences – but, instead, seek to inspire those around them using the ‘motivational trinity’ of autonomymastery and purpose.

  • Autonomy – leadership is an inside job and if you want to transform the world and make a difference (even if the world you want to transform is no more than you and a small team) you have to go first. 
  • Mastery – people who contemplate great leaders often make the mistake of thinking that they know everything. It’s not the case. There may be ‘an answer to everything’ (something my mother taught me from an early age and which I firmly believe) but really effective leadership comes when you accept that you don’t know all there is to know.
  • Purpose – great leaders have a reason to lead. They recognise their calling in life and what they are on earth to do. In seeing this, they give their greatest gifts to that calling and inspire those around them to help them on their mission.


Everyone is a leader

At this point, I want to dispel a myth. Leadership is not a privilege reserved for the few and it is absolutely not related to your hierarchical position in the world. Whether you are the leader of none or whether you lead a few or whether you lead many the principles still apply. To be a leader, first you must recognise that you are already the leader in your own life.

For example, you led yourself out of bed this morning. You made decisions which affected your feelings or took you out of the house or made something happen. You picked up this book. It’s all leadership! 

How you have led yourself over the years has created your identity. Now I want to show you how to create the identity of someone who is an inspiring, aspiring leader.

The 3 phases of becoming an inspiring leader

  1. You have to go first – this is critical and is an aspect of leadership which is missing from the vast majority of books and course on the topic. How can you hope to inspire others if you are still grappling with your own mental obstacles and inner challenges? To be a leader, first you must be someone who others want to follow.
  2. Coach others to develop themselves – by providing the mentorship and coaching which inspires others. This is leadership in the 21st century – a leader who to seeks to inspire and encourage others, rather than manage and give instructions.
  3. Build a culture – now you bring together your energised team to shape an environment where great things happen. Your role is to lead them and also to be a part of them, as you work together towards common goals.


This then, is the process that will take to the point where you inspire the people around you effortlessly just by being you. It’s not what you say – it’s just who you are.

It isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to be quick. My advice is that your give yourself 365 days to make the transition. I know that may seem like a long time but becoming an exceptional leader is about growth. You’ll start to see results quite quickly, but if you plant a seed you can’t sit back and relax when the seedling appears. You have to nurture it and see it through the challenges of every season before you can enjoy the full harvest.

Four exercises to help you identify the type of leader you want to be

1. Think of three famous leaders who inspire you. Who are they and what characteristics do they have which you admire and want to emulate? Think about how they live their life, how they interact with other people, how they face challenges and how they lead by example. Note down anything about them which inspires you.

2. Consider 3 people in your life who you spend a lot of time with. How do they lead and in what settings? What do they do which inspires you?

3. Take a look at this list of leadership characteristics. Which of these do you already possesses and how do you use them?

Leadership Characteristics

4. From the list above and from the examples of leadership you’ve seen in others, what characteristics do you want to adopt, and what will it take to apply them consistently?


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