What Does it Take to Be a True Leader?

Yellow is the colour of the innate leader and yet here’s what I have discovered those that call themselves leaders are still working from the shadow side, which is arrogance. I have tended to say that we are co-creators of our destiny because it helps to get clients out of the first trap, victimhood.  In reality, this is not the truth.  This is because leadership is the preserve of the few not the many. Let me explore why…

What the science shows us

Helen Amery put it well in a recent post on LinkedIn when she wrote about free will. Apparently, neuroscience has shown that the part of the brain that lights up when a decision is made happens about 7 seconds before the Default Mode Network lights up and says “I decided”.  Think about the implications of that.

Your blind spot

For me, this example highlights how the seeds of arrogance are found within leadership. Perhaps you hold the belief that you are in control of how your life pans out.  The truth is that forces beyond our lives set the rules.  There is a word for this in Buddhism called Dharma which refers to the unique flow of your destiny.  At the macro level, it’s the rules governing the cosmos. And believe me, it’s very different to see our own arrogance as our ego doesn’t want us to see it

You only experience it when you make a mistake.  And each one of us is prone to that.  In many respects, the sign of a great leader is how they respond to the fall.

What do you get to shape?

And this leads me to what you hold complete responsibility for and that’s your karma.  No one knows how their life is going to pan out.  What you do get to choose is how you respond to the stuff that happens to you.  You can lash out, be cruel, blame others and take the victim stance.  All aspects of the shadow side of yellow and the route chosen by the ego.

In other words, you get a say in the script but not the storyline.  The invitation always is to surrender.  All of life is about learning to let go and let God.  Acceptance and even welcoming all that shows up is the sign of a true leader.

More than this you have to stop caring what others think; stop checking how many likes your posts have received.  Build up your sense of self-belief so that it is strong enough to weather the invariable knocks that you will receive.  And lead the way even in the face of extreme criticism.

An example of what I mean

About two months ago I was in a relatively new relationship.  One that was providing me with many wonderful gifts.  Then one day it came to an end abruptly.  I wasn’t at all show what was happening and it was disconcerting.

Then the other person started making THEIR displeasure known to me.  It was very uncomfortable and yet there was a part of me that knew it was not personal.  It had nothing to do with me.  They were lashing out at me because they were in pain.  So I held them in love and kept a container of safety open trusting that we would both come through it.  It was touch and go a couple of times, and in the end, we were able to come together and share what was going on.

I am so grateful for that situation now because I feel that I know that other person better and what matters to them.  Ultimately I realise how to be more of service to them so they feel safe and are less likely to be overwhelmed by their own insecurity.

What the true leader does…

They respect tradition because they know that there are things to learn from the past.  The art is in knowing what to hold onto and how to graft the new onto the old so that you hold a compelling vision that encourages others to come with you.  Leaders are influencers and attract others to their cause.  They also have perseverance as they will need to pick themselves up many times, dust themselves off and carry on.  That’s why leadership takes so much humility.

Fallibility is the sign of a great leader

Finally, true leaders show their humanity and teach by sharing their mistakes.  They recognise that their fallibility is what makes them approachable.  It also allows them to get up close and personal with others so they can show them another way.  Those that hold themselves apart from humanity as if they have escaped the pain and the suffering have really fallen into another trap.  One that is all about a kind of spiritual arrogance.  It’s one of the reasons I do not hold with the ideas of gurus and am willing to share aspects of my own journey.

To conclude I have shared all this with you because it is very much the essence of the three bottles and three spritzers in the picture.  It takes courage to stick your head over the parapet and share your truth even though it will be misunderstood and the meaning will be twisted at times.  And for that reason and all the others stated in the article,  leadership is the preserve of the few rather than the many.


Kate Griffiths
Kate Griffiths
Some call me the coaches' coach. I work with visionary leaders doing world work who are really good at what they do but haven't found their sweet spot yet. I help them unlock their whole selves by learning to build their intuitive muscle and so create more meaning. Ultimately this enables them to move into expanded awareness and the realms of higher consciousness. This is deep work because it requires you to embrace your shadow so you can discover the gold that is hiding there. You have both masculine and feminine energies within you but somewhere along the way you learnt to rely more on one more than the other making you either more of a "prover" or a "pleaser" Working with me you learn to access both energies so you can increase your presence and enjoy greater influence and visibility. Since 2008 I have pioneered an approach that integrates spirituality and business using Colour by blending the esoteric and the practical. I have found that it can transform every aspect of your life and enable you to develop the tools you need to ride the waves of adversity, you will experience in life. If you want to understand how colour can help then why not read my book Colourful Boardrooms. At the very least it will help you discover what type of leader you are. In 2018 I realised that I wanted to help change the story for the leaders of tomorrow so I set up Colourful Classrooms, a social enterprise, and have gone into schools and communities with programmes to support teachers, parents, and students to have better emotional health and wellbeing by building their awareness around what makes them feel more resilient. In terms of where I hang out:I tend to hang out on LinkedIn, so do connect with me there if you want to continue the conversation. And at the moment I am trialling a new social media platform MeWe which has the feel of the "village green" and to show my support for the stop hate campaign. If you like videos then do subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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  1. Thanks for your comment Aldo there is so much in what you say and various aspects to it. What jumps out for me and where I find synergy in what you write is this idea that you propose that we are not all leaders. Ever since Robin Sharma published The Leader who had no title this idea has morphed into the belief that anyone can be a leader. The truth is something other I feel. Few have what it takes to be a leader. It means having the courage to make unpopular decisions, to be a pioneer and lead even amidst uncertainty where you don’t know what the outcome will be. This is a rare trait to find in others. And to your first point absolutely agree that the greatest leaders are those who fall and don’t cover up their errors but rise up again with grace. In their humanity they make themselves accessible to others so that we can see the way through and see what’s possible.

  2. Responding fully to what true leadership is is not easy. A lot has been written and said on the subject and, I believe, we will continue to discuss for a long time, because the world is evolving, companies must face new challenges and exercising leadership in such changing and complex contexts requires enormous adaptive skills.
    Personally, I have always thought about the need to be human, recognizing vulnerability to experiences as the shame, judgment, reprimand. Admit own limitations is the key to everything, is a sign of courage and ability to coexist and collaborate with others and take balanced and shared decisions.
    For the rest then, we must be realistic: the problem is not between the command and not command, but how to command. As well as, put the alternative between being authoritarian and be a motivator, is not always correct or possible. The second behavior is not substitutive of the first, but only part of the first: if the leader cannot motivate or have employees not willing to be motivated them he must anyway lead to the goals. We are afraid of this conclusion? The turbulence of the system in which we live authorizes us to do it and make it acceptable.