Leading from Who We Are Part 1
A Catalyst for Transformation
Leadership is more than just a title or job function. Leadership can come in many forms and at different times.
Leading from who we are is the idea that our leadership principles come from our authentic selves; from a place of thought, personal reflection and awareness and with openness and conviction.
I am often asked, “What if who that person is is a jerk, should they lead from who they are then?” My answer is that they have likely not examined one or more of the aspects of leading from who we are.
This doesn’t mean that we all need to share the exact same values; however, if you value hurting the planet or the beings who live on it for your own personal gain, I would suggest re-examining those values.
There are times we are thrust unawares into leadership situations and there are other times when we choose to march headlong into a leadership role.
I like to explain a leadership situation in the following way. Suppose you are at nice restaurant with a loved one enjoying a meal. At the table directly next to you is a couple with an infant who begins to cry uncontrollably.
Since you are the closest to the table, many eyes fall upon you to gauge your response.
How you respond will impact the response of others. If you choose to respond with visible annoyance, others are likely to do the same. If you respond with a smile or a kind word to the infant or couple, others will likely follow your example.
There are those who would argue this premise, stating that one cannot influence the behavior of another. While there isn’t a guarantee your response in a leadership situation or role will influence others, there sure are many examples that would point to this being likely.
Whether we find ourselves in a leadership situation or a leadership role, leading from who we are can be a catalyst for transformation.
The following is a brief description of a few aspects of leading from who we are that can lead to transformation. All of these aspects are connected as are all aspects of what we do and who we are.
Vision of Leadership - What is your vision of leadership?
If you’re not sure, don’t panic. That’s a good place to be in, as part of leadership
is the willingness to change your vision in the light of new information and
To help define your vision of leadership, ask yourself some basic questions. Do you believe that leaders never act alone and that collaboration is key to leadership? Do you value and utilize
diverse ideas while drawing on the strength of the community and the wisdom of the indigenous
Do you view people holistically, taking into account all the aspects that make up a human being?
What does your vision of leadership look like when it is played out day to day?
Path to Leadership - Take some time to examine your path to leadership.
Your experiences and circumstances have prepared you for leadership. What did you learn from
the leaders or leadership situations you have been exposed to?
The people whom you admire and emulate and the values you learned and embraced along the
way are all part of your path to leadership and have shaped your leadership style.
Leadership Style - What will your leadership style to be? Will it always be the same?
Context is important. Be conscious of the context, as not every leadership situation requires the
same thing. What might work in one context may not work in another.
For instance if the room you are in is on fire and someone in the room knows the way to the
nearest exit, it would be best if that person just told you the way using an autocratic style rather
than ask everyone for consensus.
That being said, there are few instances when an autocratic style is best; it may be necessary in a
crisis or an emergency or needed for a very short time, but is not sustainable or effective over the
Live your values, know what you value, make your values known, lead from those values and be
authentic. If you value kindness, then be kind. If you value collaboration, then collaborate. If
you do not value gossip, then don’t gossip.
Authenticity - Do you make it a point to be authentic?
Authenticity requires consciousness, knowing who you are and understanding and responding to the needs of the situation, yourself and those around you.
Leading by example is an action unto itself and is part of your authenticity. While your values form the foundation of your leadership, so too does humility. Without humility, it is difficult to lead.
Trust your intuition - How often do you go with your gut?
Are you willing to make leadership decisions based on your intuition? Leading from your
intuitive self is just as or more important than leading from your logical, analytical self.
Do not be afraid to bond emotionally with those around you and genuinely care about and
consider the emotional position of others.
Value relationships and people; connect with those you lead. Relationships help you and those
around you be authentic and may be the most important aspect of leadership and transformation.
Transformative Leadership - Transformative leadership is derived from your authenticity.
It requires all of you and everything you have. The transformation must be authentic, and while
there isn’t any one path to transformation, it usually requires every aspect of an individual or
Transformative leadership comes from knowing your higher purpose and spiritual self. It helps to
have an easy-to-state, clear purpose and mission.
In general, your leadership purpose should be boiled down to one word. For instance, the one
word that illustrates my leadership purpose is service.
What is yours?
Transformative leadership is a process of continuous growth fostering creativity, innovation and
imagination. Transformative leaders also serve as advocates for the type of transformation they
Social Justice & Sustainability - Leading from who we are would be incomplete without a responsibility for social justice and sustainability.
Some of you may be thinking my leadership role at work has nothing to do with social justice or sustainability. While this may be true, at least as it relates to your day-to-day responsibilities,
remember that leadership is not just confined to a role or title.
How can you show leadership when it comes to social justice and sustainability? Showing
leadership in this area begins with Respect for everyone and everything and is responsive to
culture and the role the dominant culture plays in the path to transformation. It also addresses
issues of equity and sustainability, particularly with regard to cultural and environmental
What are some partnerships you can create with the community, whether that community is your
workplace or beyond, that will help address issues of social justice and sustainability?
Social & Educational Transformation - This comes from all situations where leadership occurs.
How we lead sets the tone, what we do and say becomes important and influences the culture.
What do you do and say? what do you make important? If asked, what would those around say is
Transformation comes from leaders who are comfortable with and know themselves well and
who are humble. It comes from leaders who do not try to find flaws in everything but rather
find the common ground. It comes from leaders who have the courage to frame the
transformation from their authenticity and who will lead for transformation.
How will you lead from who you are and be the catalyst for transformation?
“Go to the people. Learn from them. Live with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. The best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will say we have done it ourselves.” - Lao Tzu
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