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What Does It Mean to Be A Leader?

Recently, I participated in one of the dynamically engaging and growing weekly leadership chats here on Twitter.  Each week, a new leadership topic is presented and co-hosted by a different leader.  This week, we had the honor of being led by Dan Forbes from Lead With Giants.  The topic he designed for us to explore was ‘Don’t Act Like a Leader…Be A Leader’.

Here are the list of questions presented during the chat:

  • Q1:  Is there a difference between acting like a leader and being a leader?
  • Q2:  When you are not being your authentic self, what are you?
  • Q3:  Can acting like a leader be a positive thing?
  • Q4:  Do leaders sometimes have to put on an act?
  • Q5:  Can YOU tell when someone is acting?

Styles of Leadership

It only took getting to Question #2 when I realized just how deep this subject really is.  For multiple reasons.  Just off the top of my head I was already thinking of various styles of leadership; autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire (delegating).  I have personal experience with mainly the first two via military and civilian sectors.  The military, which represents the autocratic body of leadership. It is intentionally designed NOT to be a democracy in order to carry out a specific purpose, functions, and tasks related to our national security and defense.  The rest of the jobs I’ve held were in the civilian sector and could basically be considered democratic.  Although that entirely depends on the mindset of the leader(s) running the organization or company. Or the type of organization it is.

Mindsets: Power Over vs Co-Creation

Which leads me to my next point: mindset.  Even in a democracy, the mindset of a leader determines how that person leads.  In their personal life and/or in business.  Since childhood on, I have to say that many of the experiences I’ve had with various leaders were deeply entrenched in what could be considered ‘power over‘ mentality.  It was about domination and control. As opposed to a more democratic or ‘co-creation’ methodology.

Values and Character

I also have to say that VALUES and CHARACTER also play a huge role on the way a person leads.  There are many who are literally BEING A LEADER and not acting.  Yet can their leadership be characterized as ‘beneficial’ or ‘destructive’ to those they lead?  What IMPACT does that persons leadership have on others?  Their families?  Their teams? Their organizations? Their nation?  The world?

Case in point: The holocaust That particular leader was not ACTING.  He was fully BEING in alignment with his personal beliefs, values, and character, however deluded they  may have been.  And many people followed him.  As a result, there was a great deal of devastation and destruction that led to a world war.  Again, please let me emphasize.  He was not ACTING.  He was BEING.

Here in America: We have had presidents that were revealed to have little to no INTEGRITY at all.  Yet to this day, some people still consider to be GREAT leaders!  As if all that it takes to be a great leader is to be effective in terms of foreign policy , a few financial issues, and a polished ORATOR.  Delivering great speeches and excelling at talking shop at home and abroad does not mean GOOD leadership.  A great salesman? Perhaps. However, they are not one and the same.  A good leader can also be a great salesman.  However, not every great salesman is a good leader.

This NATION doesn’t need another slick salesman selling swampland to the masses in order to further their own self-centered interests or image.  It’s important that we learn how to discern the difference.

We need REAL leadership that is ABOUT the people and FOR the people!

That said, here is the big dilemma.  As long as people remain divided on CORE VALUES, where truth and integrity are NOT central to leadership, the ‘head’ will always lead with various means of deception.  If MONEY and GREED is more important then truth….if SELF-CENTERED INTERESTS are more important than truth, equity, and justice in the land…

We will not have SOUND or WISE leadership.

There is far more I can say on this topic, yet I should probably save those ideas and reflections for another post.

So for now, I’d like to close with an important question that Dan Rockwell, author of Leadership Freak blog, tweeted just shortly after the chat:

Self reflection: Am I bringing out the best or bringing out the worst in the people around me?

For me, this is what it all boils down to.  We don’t really have much control over other leaders.  Only ourselves.  So this is a good question to explore for each and every one of us when it comes to our own leadership.

  • Am I bringing out the best or worst in the people around me?
  • In my family? Friends?
  • Co-workers?
  • The neighbors?
  • Strangers? 
  • Or ANYONE who might look up to me?

This is one area where we DO have some power of authority over.


1.  How would you describe your current leadership style?

2.  What impact has your leadership style/mindset had on those around you?

3.  How open are you to feedback when it comes to your leadership?

4.  Do you have at least ONE person in your life that you trust enough to be vulnerably honest with? And someone who has your best interests at heart?

5.  What can we do together to help support one another in becoming better leaders at home, at work, and in our communities?


Other related posts with additional insights and discussion:

Who Made You the Leader of Me?

Leadership’s Dark Side by Mike Lehr

Intelligence vs Wisdom by Mike Lehr

The Real Definition of Authentic Leadership by Steve Keating

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