Today, my newest book, Leadershift:
11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace, finally hits
shelves in stores. Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered a copy of the book or
helped get the word out through social media. We’re expecting a great launch,
and it’s made possible by your help and excitement.
I’m also excited for this book! Not just because it’s new,
but because so much has changed since I first began teaching about leadership.
Once upon a time, leadership wasn’t the buzzword it is today. In fact, when I
first started teaching about leadership, everyone else was talking about
Management was all about titles, stability, and positional
authority. Leadership is different—it’s about influence, adaptability, and
moral authority. Managers are given responsibility; leaders earn respect.
I want to talk to you today about how leaders earn that respect.
I want to talk about developing moral authority as a leader.
You see, moral authority is a weightiness, a sense of wisdom
and experience that encourages other people to put their trust in you. A leader
with moral authority is someone who has turned time into an ally—over time, a
leader with moral authority has proven to be consistently competent, have
consistent character, and shown consistent courage.
There’s a common theme in that sentence—consistency.
I talk a lot about consistency because it’s been the key to
my leadership success. In fact, it’s one of the things that surprises me most
about leadership. If you do the right things the right way for the right
reasons when you’re young, it often goes unnoticed by the world at large.
But do that over decades? You’ll get more credit than you
think you deserve.
I’ve been consistent in my personal growth, my teaching, my
character, my thinking, my writing—and because of that, I’ve been able to stay
in the game for over forty years. I call it layered living. The benefits and
gains from year to year work together to produce a life of leadership that
others want to learn from.
That’s the funny thing about the leadershift to moral
authority—in a fast forward world, where we face daily change and disruption,
our people are looking for a leader who can provide stability. It is the task
of the leader to be flexible enough to change while being trustworthy enough to
provide hope. Flexibility and trust are achieved through consistency.
To go back to my earlier point, there are three areas where
leaders must become consistent if they wish to earn moral authority:
is the ability to lead well. Making smart decisions, knowing your people,
understanding your field, and committing to personal growth are all examples of
competence. Leaders who demonstrate that they know what they’re doing—and that
they learn from their mistakes—establish themselves as a leader worth
is moving forward in the face of fear. Courage is not the absence of fear, but
the presence of mind to act when afraid. Every leader needs courage to make
hard decisions, needed changes, and cast vision.
is being bigger on the inside than the outside. Leaders of character know that
who they are is more than what they achieve. Character is a commitment to continual
growth in the areas of integrity, authenticity, humility and love.
When I was in my early thirties, I decided to do five things
to make myself a better leader—always put people first; live to make a
difference, not to make money; be myself, but be my best self possible; express
gratitude—reject entitlement; be willing to be misunderstood and lonely for the
I made the commitment to live out those five things, not
because I saw them as means to an end, but because I felt they were simply the
right things to do. I’ve worked hard to follow those guidelines for the last
forty years, and I’ve been blessed to see a great return on that decision.
In the end, you don’t get to grant yourself moral authority. Only others can do that. But you can strive for it—and you should. In a shifting world, leaders with moral authority become a foundation for others to build upon.
It’s a leadershift worth making.