What Does Leadership Mean to You?

“Leadership is about thinking beyond yourself and being able to understand a strategy in which to take care of, care for and lead a community that has asked you to represent them. A lot of people might say that leadership is about being blunt and tough love, but I deny all of that. I think that true leadership can always exist through kindness.”

If you are a reader of the Business Section of the Globe and Mail newspaper in Canada, you will have read these words this week.

Columnist Karl Moore Wáhiakatste Diome-Deer produced a wonderful interview with Sarain Fox, entrepreneur, activist, and artist entitled “For multidimensional entrepreneur Sarain Fox, kindness and honesty are key to leadership”.

“…leaders must think beyond themselves and care for their community” says Fox. “My mom would say that the most important part of leadership is kindness and honesty. She always taught me to lead with your heart, and if you can’t do that, then that leadership might not be the right thing for you.”

I was struggling to come up with a theme for one of my weekly blog posts a few years ago when I asked my boss at the time, Dr. Alan Middleton, to define leadership for me. He didn’t miss a beat when he said “leaders are only leaders when they can look behind them and see followers”. Leaders, he suggested, must earn the role.  Regardless of the title, if you have no followers, you are not a leader.

Great leaders are given permission to represent a community or an organization.

So, what kind of leaders do we want to follow?  There are many attributes of leadership that I could list off here. 

Today, it is kindness.  Yes, the great leaders “think beyond themselves and care for their community” and show kindness in the process.

My Great Grandfather had a saying that he lived by.  So much so, that he had these words engraved over his fireplace in his Toronto home and carved in his tome stone at his grave site.

“Two things stand like stone. Kindness in another’s trouble, Courage in your own.”

And I will give the final word to my friend, Lou Breithaupt, who emailed me this week after reading this interview and said… “If what she says is true… realizing that ‘kindness and honesty’ are not eared values, that means Leadership is not an earned value either.” …just a thought.


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