I am often asked to predict the future of leadership. That’s a dangerous business. I am reluctant to join the economists, futurists, and others who live by the crystal ball…and soon learn to eat ground glass. However, as we enter the new millennium we can look back through history and discover the timeless leadership principles that have guided successful societies, organizations, and individuals through uncertain and rapidly changing times. Inner (leading ourselves) and outer (leading others) leadership has never been more critical.

It would be easy if we could all become leaders by following a simple set of steps. But the journey of personal growth requires finding our own way. There are, however, a series of interconnected areas of growth and development based on timeless principles. The distance each of us needs to grow along these leadership dimensions will differ, but defining and continually growing along these paths is the way of the leader… and the way to the future of our dreams.

  • Focus and Context. THE CORE OF MY BEING: This is central to our growth along all the other dimensions. Our Focus and Context is shaped by three vital questions: Where am I going? (vision); What do I believe in? (principles and values); Why do I exist? (purpose or mission).
  • Responsibility for Choices. IF IT’S TO BE, IT’S UP TO ME: Leadership means accepting responsibility for our choices in life. Leaders realize that life accumulates, that choice more than chance determines their circumstances. They refuse to succumb to the “Victimitus Virus” — it’s all their fault; there’s nothing I can do.
  • Authenticity. GETTING REAL: Leadership isn’t just what we do, it’s something that we are, which then drives what we do. Genuine leadership comes from within. It’s authentic, and based on honesty, integrity and trust. We must ring true to ourselves by exploring our inner space, gathering feedback on our personal behavior, and ensuring consistency with our stated values and principles.
  • Passion and Commitment. BEYOND NEAR-LIFE EXPERIENCES: Successful people are energized by a love for what they do because it brings them closer to who they are. They overcome apathy and cynicism, develop a burning commitment to their cause, and with discipline achieve their dreams and desires.
  • Spirit and Meaning. WITH ALL MY HEART AND SOUL: What is the purpose of our work? Of our lives? Material success alone is not enough. Leaders seek within — and find something more. In what is too often a mad dash from cradle to grave, we need to take time — in work and life — to nourish our inner selves.
  • Growing and Developing. FROM PHASE OF LIFE TO WAY OF LIFE: The popular goals of security, stability, and predictability are deadly. The closer we get to these dangerous goals, the more our growth is stunted. True and lasting security comes from constant growth and development, based on regular R & R (reflection and renewal).
  • Mobilizing and Energizing. PUTTING EMOTIONS IN MOTION: Leaders don’t motivate with rewards and punishments. Whether at home or in the workplace, they energize people to motivate themselves. Highly effective leaders boost the energy of others with their passion and appreciation. They engage people’s hearts as well as their minds. They get them involved and participating. They actively nurture the “being” or culture of the group, not just the “doing.”

The more the world changes, the more leadership principles stay the same. Leadership principles are timeless. And they apply to all, no matter what role we play in society or organizations.