Are you a leader? Whether you consider yourself a leader or not, you have an impact every day of your life. Whether it’s in an interaction with the cashier at the grocery store or leading an executive team, each of us has the ability to inspire others and contribute. Explore what defines a leader and learn more about your personal leadership style as you work to make a meaningful impact in the world.
What Defines a Leader?
“I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” - Jeanne d’Arc / Joan of Arc
Leaders have a knack for navigating personal relationships and an ability to bring a beneficial vision into the world. The truth is that everyone contains qualities of leadership to varying degrees, but what defines a leader in the deepest sense?
Leaders are defined by their ability to distinguish what is truly important, take others’ wellbeing to heart, engage in inner work, and consistently carry a vision day after day, year after year. The ability to clearly hold a vision is no small task, particularly in the face of conflict, apathy, and self-doubt.
To rise above the turmoil requires a commitment to doing inner work, which is based on a willingness to live with integrity, make mistakes, and learn in the process.
Being willing to ask ourselves what defines a leader is crucial in creating real change in the world. Perhaps the process of questioning is even more valuable than quickly arriving at an answer. Through self-inquiry, we can discover new ways to lead that are authentic and impactful.
Where Did We Go Wrong?
Our world needs true leadership now more than ever.
The stakes are high as the status quo (i.e., existing state of affairs) begins to tumble around us. It’s only a matter of time before we see the true colors of those who abuse their power. No one can hide from the truth forever. When those in positions of power prioritize personal gain, the results are disastrous.
Thankfully, more and more people are rising up to call out corruption and start the process of reclaiming our power. In doing this in our own lives, we are able to see a ripple out into the world. In order for this to happen on a global scale, we must first be willing to look at the places we knowingly or unknowingly still give away our power to someone outside (whether that’s a boss, friend, relationship, politician, or even a guru.)
Leadership is Not For the Faint of Heart
Political disagreements are not much different from an argument between friends. Simply said, two people (or two groups of people) can’t seem to meet eye-to-eye. One side is angry because the other won’t take responsibility for the error of their ways. Everyone is hurt because they feel disregarded, unheard, or invalidated. This is where self-responsibility is crucial and unfortunately a skill that seems to be missing in the political arena (and beyond).
Inner work is not possible without self-responsibility and leadership is not possible without inner work.
What if we each have a role to play in solving the collective issues we face? We can only change the world outside if we are willing and able to also change ourselves, inside. After all, "The World" is composed of individuals making choices based on their internal experiences (i.e., inner worlds).
As we explore self-responsibility, and the obvious lack of it “out there,” perhaps there is value in acknowledging the places we ourselves miss opportunities to lead by example through taking responsibility for our actions.
What defines a leader is the ability to respond instead of reacting.
Inner work is fundamental to leading in these times. Through self-responsibility, we can live by example and inspire change in others along the way.
You Were Born to Lead
Believe it or not, we have all played the role of the victim and the persecutor at one point in our lives and to varying degrees. If we want to co-create a new world and lead others in the process, self-responsibility is paramount. Without it, we are destined to remain stuck in an endless cycle of projection, blame, and suffering.
When an unresolved element of the psyche is unconscious to us, there is a likelihood for that unaccepted quality to be projected onto others in the form of judgment.
When we stop inquiring authentically into, “what defines a leader?” we may find ourselves stuck in old cycles. To break them we can authentically inquire internally where we can take self-responsibility, practice forgiveness, and establish strong boundaries where necessary.
There is an unconscious mechanism within the human psyche that inclines us to believe things are either all good or all bad. We idealize or demonize, not leaving much room for nuance. This is particularly dangerous when we are unaware of this tendency or think that “only others do that, not me.” Explore your role in this phenomenon and reclaim your power of discernment and leadership in the process.
Mistakes Are Fuel for Transformation
What if mistakes are worth celebrating? To err is human, yet it is something most of us try to avoid at all costs. Have you ever asked yourself what the impact of avoiding making mistakes (or avoiding acknowledging them) has in your life?
When it comes to avoiding mistakes we either stop ourselves from doing the things we dream of, perhaps convincing ourselves that we “didn’t really want to do it anyway.” Or, we pretend that we didn’t make a mistake, after all, deflecting responsibility or projecting the error onto someone else. This is often not a conscious process, especially when it comes to projection. One really has to inquire deeply to discover whether judgments we have about someone are true or a well-constructed projection to avoid having to face something within ourselves (as is usually the case).
What if our mistakes actually provide a powerful opportunity to be leaders?
What defines a leader is being accountable for our mistakes and owning them as we learn and change for the better. Instead of feeling overwhelming guilt or using our errors as fuel for insecurity and self-doubt, we lead with compassion towards ourselves and integrity when we take self-responsibility.
Leadership Styles That Catalyze Change
Leadership qualities that are particularly useful during these times include self-responsibility, collaboration, discernment, resilience, and compassion. At the basis of these virtues of a modern leader is an ability to source from within and connect with their inner knowing. Exploring your personal leadership strengths and weaknesses can help you bring forward the change you wish to see in the world, starting with you.