“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” ~ Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.~

 I love this quote by the Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because it embodies what true leadership is all about – the removal of the self and becoming vulnerable in such a way that the leader touches the lives and experiences of people and leaves them inspired and willing to give of themselves as well.

Leadership is more than a title, more than having the authority to make things happen, and more than the money you make in the climb to the top.  It’s about making a difference in the world, using influence to cause the necessary shifts that disrupt the status quo.  Today, we are facing some of the most urgent and complex global, social, economic, and environmental challenges of our time.  These challenges create windows of possibility for leaders to be and do better and to lead with purpose.

True leadership requires one to give of themselves. A major obstacle however is self-preservation. Some leaders are too busy trying to preserve how they are seen in the climb to the top, or they focus their energies in a way that leaves people uninspired to carry out the vision and mission of the organization. Leaders that give of themselves are the ones that leave no one behind. They empower people to bring their best selves to work and to be and do their best even in the face of adversity. Leaders that lead by example, putting themselves on the “back-burner,” can inspire even the lowest performers to actionable, unprecedented results. This kind of influence can cause a team(s) to align to achieve an intended outcome and help people to be authentic enough to hold one another accountable in support of the endeavor.

In what way are you giving of yourself that makes the difference in your teams’ performance? Perhaps it was taking time to listen when someone had a personal challenge. Or maybe it’s mentoring someone so that the person being mentored can learn from your experiences, advice, and counsel.  What structural barriers can you help to remove or overcome to make the lives and work experiences of your people better? Maybe you listened when an employee came to you with a problem and a solution to solve it, and then the two of you collaborated to implement a new idea. Leaders put ego aside because they see that self-less leadership can play a greater role in bringing a vision to life.

Leaders that are future-focused with a vision can push the boundaries of business as usual toward innovative solutions that put purpose at the core of organizational strategy and can uniquely position it to address the world’s most pressing challenges. Navigating transformational change is challenging, however, including broader social ambitions to benefit society and the world as a core vision, purpose, and strategy can be viable and cause an organization to outperform its competition because the people are impassioned to do so. It is because the leader created the vision and communicated in such a way that people can see it; it is future-focused and they become inspired to move the ball forward when they see themselves in it. It is who the leader is being and what he or she is doing for others that make the difference!

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