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The best leaders are able to lead by example. As a successful professional speaker who has delivered talks internationally I am well placed to teach others how to speak well in public. But we can still lead by example even if we are on different paths. For example, if I ask you to step out of your comfort zone, then I should be prepared to step out of mine. Great leaders practice what they preach.
Leadership involves a kind of honesty. We struggle, we trip up, we persevere and we show that it is okay to trip up sometimes on the march to greatness. We show that it is human not to be perfect. We show that we can still achieve great things despite our flaws. Most importantly, we show that we can love who we are no matter what happens to us or whatever mistakes we make.
Anybody who has read either of my books, Just a Boy or The Boy Grows Up, will recognise that I have faced up to my own doubts and fears. In my talks and in my books I practice rigorous honesty. It is my openness and honesty that invites people to put their trust in me. That trust or that leap of faith is where the transformation happens. Once we recognise who we really are without shame or embarrassment that is when we can truly recognise our huge potential.
My journey to becoming as authentic as possible in everything I do probably started when I began writing Just a Boy. By facing up to and writing about my life and my upbringing with such brutal warts and all honesty I made myself vulnerable to being judged harshly or being criticised. But at the same time, it allowed me to see my strengths, what I had endured and how I had emerged stronger and wiser on the other side.
Writing the book was the first step in taking full responsibility for myself and my actions, not stumbling through life from one painful moment to the next, but really knowing who I was and where I wanted to go.
Only when we can demonstrate that we are truly in charge of our own lives can we genuinely inspire others to take charge of theirs. Leadership starts and ends with authenticity. We have to know who we are. Then we speak to people with conviction and we listen with empathy. A good leader will motivate many people to reach their potential. A great leader touches everyone they speak to.