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To LEAD means to take initiative in social situations, which requires willingness to take risks, feel the consequences, and assume responsibility for the effects. For example, leaders are willing to express unpopular points of view, speak about painful realities, and suggest possible changes for the future. Leading a group of people is called leadership.

What is leadership?

Leadership is a process. (not a personal characteristic)

Leadership is a social process. (requires two or more people)

Leadership is a social influence process. (affecting other people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors).

Leadership is a social influence process that motivates people to voluntarily choose actions that collectively achieve a shared vision for the future.

What is your vision of the future?

So how does leadership operate?

Leadership primarily has two major stages:

  • Creating a compelling shared vision of the future
  • Transforming vision into reality

Each stage has several steps and requires different skills. For example:

Creating a shared vision: includes envisioning new inspiring possibilities for the future, identifying shared values among a group of people, and .

Transforming vision into reality: imagining different ways to co-create the vision on earth, developing people’s confidence that the vision can be achieved no matter what, role modeling ethical behaviors for others, supporting other people to grow capacities and skills to transform visions into physical form, facilitating group decision-making that aligns diverse people into coordinated actions, building concrete structures and stable systems that last over time.

Leadership versus Management

In business, leadership is often compared to management.

Business managers often define leadership by role, title, or position in a hierarchy.

For example, the top of a managerial organizational hierarchy is often called a senior leadership team (regardless of skill level in social awareness, emotional intelligence, or people skills). A managerial position provides a source(s) of power, beginning with authority to reward or punish other people. Usually the higher up in the hierarchy, the more people can be influence through rewards and punishments due to positional power.

On the other hand, when leadership is defined as a process of co-creating a shared vision of the future, then management skills are most important as the vision is translated into tangible reality. Then the structures and systems created require a level of predictability that can last over time. The goal of leadership is creating change and the goal of management is creating stability and consistency.

People tend to be better at some of these skills than others. For example, some people are better at imagining what’s possible without limitations, while other people are better at realistically building a foundation based on limited resources, conserving materials and minimizing costs.

Leadership can be used for good, or for harmful, purposes.

Consider that leadership itself is a process that can be used for any purpose, good or bad.

The outcome is based on the intention and values of those people leading the process, and the level of integrity and ethics of care maintained throughout the group process.

When people are creating results based in fear or anger, the outcomes achieved are likely to be at someone else’s expense and to cause harmful effects.

For example, people who fear the loss of their own security and comfort, are willing to ignore or justify the costs and harms to people outside their in-group, in order to achieve their goals to maintain their security. Research on moral disengagement describes how easily people rationalize and distance themselves from the effects of their actions and decisions.

People who are angry often are willing to fight against other people and harm them. Activists that bomb an abortion clinic to stop the murder of babies are themselves causing harm and violence.

In your life experience, do you see examples of how leadership has been used to benefit one group of people and fulfill their vision – at the expense or harm of other people? Why did this happen?

How is harm defined? imposing personal will on someone else

How do humans impose their will on others?

  • physically hurt a person’s body against their will.
  • physically threaten a person’s well-being, if they don’t comply.
  • punish a person (fire them) if they don’t say or do what we want.
  • restrict humans ability to speak for themselves, to think for themselves, to feel themselves.
  • hide information or lie to someone to get them to do what is wanted. (for example, in science and medical research, “informed consent” is required so people can assess their risks and decide for themselves, but all relevant information is not always provided. Also, free-market capitalism is built on equal access to all information to all people in the system – but we are far from that model).

How can humans restrict others’ ability to speak/think/feel for themselves?

  • numb the human body and brain with substances like stimulants, relaxants, sleeping pills, opioids, sugars, processed foods, toxic pesticides like glyphosate and man-made chemicals like PFAs, etc.
  • increase chronic illnesses, mental illness, physical pain, emotional fear and anger.
  • limit their ability to communicate with others freely, by increasing censorship, limiting access to internet resources and information from diverse sources.
  • control the major news media, repeat the same message, eliminate conflict and debate.
  • limit people’s ability to freely move and travel.
  • punish those who do not do what you want (restrict their freedom, limit their job opportunities, socially isolate them, call them names that dichotomize people into two categories: the “good” people and “bad” people.

Leadership based in “non-violence” can develop authenticity to the soul-level (rather than disconnect people from their deepest essence and moral compass for the sake of power, control, safety, security, or rewards).

How do we move out of a social system that harms someone to serve someone else, and learn how to co-create a future that supports the development of the human soul and flourishing of free will?

I base my approach to leadership development on these principles:

  • non-violence (unwilling to impose one’s will on others)
  • humility (willing to learn, change, feel, and grow infinitely)
  • authenticity to the soul level
  • integrity of the whole
  • respect for non-separable mutuality and diversity
  • reverence for divine source and divine love
  • recognizing creative and destructive forces exist in all humans at this time on earth, and responsibility lies with individual free will to choose.

My approach to leadership development combines multiple research streams from leadership research, including authentic, humble, ethical, and servant leadership. You can use google scholar to find the articles of each of these streams of research, and here are a few links:

Overview of Moral Leadership Styles

Authentic Leadership

Humble Leadership

Humble Leadership: Modeling how to Grow

Ethical Leadership

Servant Leadership