Giving the word ‘leadership’ real impact and meaning The word ‘leadership’ is a little like the word ‘love’ in our culture…it has been so misused, misappropriated and distorted in our popular culture that its real meaning has blurred. It has become subjective, politicized, and more of a ‘promotional’ term than the definition of a characteristic to which we can all aspire. So, in the interest of clarification (and perhaps purification), I asked an expert to help us out. I turned to his website (www.visionxy.com) to give us a foundation of understanding into this complex man: Joshua Fredenburg is a nationally acclaimed speaker, author of five books, member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Tedx Speaker, and President of the ‘Award Winning Circle of Change Leadership Experience that specializes in providing emerging and seasoned leaders with the leadership skills necessary to lead effectively in a diverse world and make a positive impact in their community, nation, and world. For the past decade, he has served as a keynote speaker for different lectures, conferences, retreats, and trainings at various colleges, non-profit organizations, and corporate events in forty-four different states. He is a dynamic speaker who is known for delivering an inspirational message with expert advice that leads to immediate, life changing, and transformational results! In addition to a highly successful speaking career, Joshua has appeared on various television/radio shows, created a leadership development curriculum for emerging and seasoned leaders, and serves as the President and Founder of the “Award Winning” Circle of Change Leadership Conference. Currently, Joshua is pursuing a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University, serves as a husband and father of two wonderful children, and accepted a community service award from the Young Professionals Urban League of Los Angeles for his service and work with emerging and seasoned leaders of the younger generation. So how does one BECOME a guru of leadership…because—as Joshua will be the first to tell you—it takes a lot of personal power to inspire and motivate people to create real change in this complex world. I don’t know about you, but I am always curious to know what background spawns folks with special gifts…what cultural petri dish conspires to create people with vision and gifts…is it nature or nurture? In Joshua’s case, it is definitely a special and unique combination of the two. Joshua tells me that he discovered his innate ability to lead in high school, and claims he was “a natural leader in high school.” By college, Joshua had made a conscious decision to cultivate his leadership abilities so that he “could make a difference in the world.” That conscious decision led to him obtaining a Masters of Leadership Development from Long Beach State University. But Josh is a lifelong learner, and believes that “education and TRAINING are the keys to his ability to guide people well and correctly.” Josh does not believe that “having the heart to serve” alone is enough. He believes that in order to make a real and tangible difference, he must be clinically trained and well-educated to earn that right. So let’s get to it. The goal of this article is to give you some real guidelines so that you can gauge your ability to become a leader and the mindset you will need to accomplish the great things of which we are all capable when we focus our minds and hearts on personal development and public service. To Joshua, “leadership if based upon service and impact,” with the end game being to “make things better.” Hence, “becoming a good leader is about inspiring people by what we DO, not what we say…we have to lead by example.” In essence, we have to “become the leader in our own lives that we aspire to see,” according to Joshua. Joshua tells me “the one characteristic of a great leader is the ability to influence people to act.” Ah, that tricky word: ‘influence.’ Another one that gets bandied-around quite a bit in our ‘pop culture’ world self-absorbed world of selfies and ‘influencers.’ Really? Getting people to buy a new off-the-shoulder top, a new moisturizer or a new flavor or vodka makes you and an ‘influencer?” Back in the day they called that advertising and promotion…how perceptions and definitions have changed since the advent of the world wide web… So let’s go with a more ‘classical’ definition of influence shall we? This one leans a bit more to the side of PUBLIC service instead of self service…just call me old-fashioned lol. So, shall we try a definition of ‘influence’ that might aspire to a somewhat more substantive outcome? Josh defines a leader as “someone who inspires, motivates, impacts people, who has character, integrity and the charisma to enhance your ability to successfully relate to people.” Josh adds that “a good leader MUST have a vision.” So how does one prepare oneself to become a good leader? Joshua has some tips to help with that:  Determine your value. How can you use your unique life experience to determine your destiny?  What is your vision?  What leadership characteristics do you have?  Lead by EXAMPLE.  Create your Dream Team of mentors, peer mentors…KEEP THE RIGHT PEOPLE AROUND YOU.  Be RESILIENT! DO NOT GIVE UP.  CULTIVATE/DEVELOP YOUR EMOTIONAL IQ.  Be adaptable. Be ready for change and don’t let it throw you…redirect!  Have a REFLECTIVE lens as a leader…always be able to see the faces of others in your vision…do not forget for whom/for what you are fighting.  Have COURAGE.  Prepare yourself to play on the world stage by having a BIG goal.  Choose the ONE thing you can do to make life better for others and DO that one thing. We are all human, right? Given the assumption of a unanimous affirmative response, I will assume that is a yes! So, if we are human, that has to mean that there will be days of doubt and discouragement and skepticism when you might start to believe your nay-sayers. Those are bad days, and can derail your destiny if you don’t have a fight plan (instead of a ‘flight’ plan!). Joshua recommends a daily motivational routine so that you can keep your spiritual tank full. Each of us will have different things that keep us focused. For some it may be prayer, or nature, or reading an inspirational book, speaking to a touchstone friends who always knows what to say when you are down. Whatever works for you! Meditation and watching motivational videos work for Joshua…along with his true belief that “EVERY challenge in life is an opportunity to grow. There is ALWAYS a hidden gift in adversity/a challenge.” Here are some steps Josh recommends for staying focused on the lesson and the positive in the face of adversity:  Shift the focus to something positive…what is still going RIGHT in your life  Gratitude…be grateful every day for what we HAVE  Lift yourself above this moment and remember what your VISION for your future…what is your PASSION…for what are you working and striving Ok, let’s take a moment to do a reality check here. Facts are facts, and there are, UNDENIABLY, injustices in the world. Life (as you might have heard), is not FAIR. And sometimes people start-out in life loaded-down with what may be perceived as more injustices than the next guy. Racism, as much as we would wish it away, IS still a fact in the United States of America. We are not proud of that, but it is. Joshua takes a fairly hard line about perceived injustices and says that “racism is not an excuse or a crutch” for not trying to actualize your full potential as a leader. His approach to that is to “accept that there ARE systemic injustices, which you can identify and overcome.” So let’s just say that you hit a glitch in life and are struggling. What then? How do you dig-out of that dark hole of the spirit? Once again, Joshua offers you some hope and insight:  TURN THE FOCUS AWAY FROM YOURSELF AND TOWARD PEOPLE WHO NEED HELP.  Each one teach one. Become a mentor, reach out, help others to improve themselves.  Do YOUR part to make the world a better place.  Do YOUR part to be loving to other people.  Don’t ever forget from where you came. Stay humble and grateful.  As individuals and as a society, we must embrace true equality. Create that world by PRACTICING it and not waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting on change. A word about humility. It can be hard to sustain in the face of success and adulation, but truly key to you being able to remain a responsive and relevant leader. Joshua believes that “if your motivation to serve is based upon the right principles, you remain humble. If you have a GENUINE desire to help people, it is difficult to be arrogant. The secret is to keep the focus on others.” A reoccurring theme in the quest to be/become a meaningful leader it seems… So have you given this leadership thing any serious consideration? If not, then let’s explore some of the issues that may be blocking you from fulfilling your full potential as a leader:  You have the wrong definition of leadership  You lack the correct training for a position of leadership  You have to shift your focus to SERVICE and away from self-interest If any of those things resonate with you—and making a difference in life matters to you, then let this be your moment of personal revelation and recommitment to finding your real purpose in life. People often ask me how long it takes to change…to which I always reply, ‘as long as it takes you to make-up your mind to change!’ It really IS that simple. So let’s do a quick review of the salient points Joshua has made about leadership, shall we? Below are some tenets Joshua recommends to keep you focused on the road to becoming a real and effective leader:  A real leader inspires others to make the world a better place  Measure your ‘success’ by the development of others.  What are the consequences of your actions…have you caused any harm?  What is your definition of a ‘better world?’ LIVE BY IT!  Teach people to love each other and to accept one another for who they really are. Encourage people to become their best selves. And finally, take these steps to prepare yourselves for the amazing privilege of changing and impacting people’s futures and lives:  Look for a purpose that has impact on a social need  Have a VISION and a PLAN for that purpose  Create a blueprint (a strategy) for how to stay positive every day despite what life brings  MANIFEST the future you envision  ‘BE the change you want to see’ I would wish you luck…but if you have commitment, you will create your OWN luck! # # #