Breaking the Lies of Leadership Stereotypes

For too long we have perpetuated certain leadership stereotypes. Our primary view of leadership frames leaders as masculine, charismatic, take the hill types. Leadership speaking events typically feature CEOs, book authors and other ‘expert’ speakers that tell you what you must DO to lead and how you must change to be a ‘true leader.’ We are told things like:

  • Set your goals
  • Be consistent in forwarding action
  • Build strong habits of positive thinking
  • Emulate other great leaders
  • Never stop till you reach the mountain top

But that’s putting the proverbial cart before the horse. It’s not that these kinds of messages have no utility. They can be motivating in the short term for someone who may orient to making and achieving certain outcomes, but such messages do little to support the development of true leadership.

Leadership is not about behaviors or action.  Sure we must act but great actions are the outcomes that naturally unfold once we find our authentic expression of leadership. The expression of leadership in the human being emerges when we turn within towards our hearts and a calling that is uniquely ours to follow. Authentic leaders in organizations do not lead for the sake of the organization or the company – they lead in such a context because they feel, within that organization, they are saying ‘yes’ to life’s call to make the difference that only they can make.  And when one embraces authentic leadership in this way, they serve their organizations in ways that far exceed expectations.

Such leaders have tremendous influence and generate extraordinary outcomes. They express through a set of clear competencies (as highlighted in my last blog post). That said, this all starts when an individual becomes a steward of their heart’s promptings.  As a steward, they care deeply about the difference they are here to make and become willing to follow an unpaved, unique path that they cut out with each step they take.

For example, one individual I know is a master practitioner of a particular form of traditional healing. He has no interest in becoming well known or finding his fortune through his work. His interest is in supporting others to rest in their deeper nature. And part of his work involves supporting the dying, who find themselves in hospice. He has great humility in this work and gives of his time – applying his craft to support others who are facing one of the biggest events in their lives. He is a servant, who deeply cares and follows his bliss. However, he would not be seen as a leader under the current stereotype. He is too quiet and unassuming.  Yet, he is a leader by every measure.

Authentic leaders do not listen to what others say they should do. They do not follow convention and they do not play by the rules. The question is, how do you discover your calling? How do you embrace the true path to unfold your unique expression of leadership? To do so, you have to:

  • Take time to be quiet and listen to the still small voice from within.  It is there for every one of us, if you take the time to quiet the mind.
  • Look to your own experience and realize that everything that has and is unfolding provide messages to your unique call.  Nothing in your life was an accident and even your so called failures have a purpose.
  • Say yes to this calling and realize you are not separate from life and that each moment offers an opportunity to further clarify this calling in action.
  • Stop listening to all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought tos’ that society asks you to follow and embrace your uniqueness.  No one can tell you what your path is or what you should do to follow it.

Leaders are trail blazers not because they change the world. They generate transformation because they answer the call that is authentically theirs.  We have to stop connecting leadership primarily with achievement!  Achievement is a by product of one who courageously follows their heart.  Paradoxically, when you do so, you achieve things you never thought were possible.  This can sound confusing to your mind but your heart fully embraces this apparent paradox.

We face a leadership crisis in the world today because of our addiction towards comfort and conformity. Leaders do not conform and encourage others to avoid this pitfall as well. Leaders call us to wipe the sleep out of our eyes and wake up from delusions. Leaders embrace the deeper resourcefulness within themselves and could care less what others think of them. Leaders are consistent, not because they set goals and are consistent in their habits – they are consistent because they follow their hearts, are fully present to each moment and say yes to what is right in front of them.

About the Author David

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