Unveiling the Essence of True Leadership: What Do You Stand For?

Jul 26, 2023 4 Min Read
leader at the top; true leadership

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Demonstrating True Leadership

Leaders rise and fall, and so many worldly, highly accomplished leaders fall from grace and fail to maintain their level of influence and inspirations. Carlos Ghosn, the former CEO of Nissan and Renault, was once lauded for his leadership and credited with turning around both companies. He was arrested in Japan in 2018 on charges of financial misconduct, which resulted in his ousting from Nissan, tarnished his reputation as a respected global business leader, and trapped him in never-ending lawsuits. Bernie Madoff was a prominent financier and former chairman of NASDAQ, who orchestrated one of the most extensive and infamous Ponzi schemes in history that defrauded thousands of investors out of billions of dollars. In 2008, his fraud was exposed, leading to his arrest and subsequent conviction with a 150 year sentence.

NASDAQ - playground with numbers on a wild rollercoaster ride I Image source

Leaders are inherently human and subject to flaws and vulnerabilities regardless of their achievements. The higher the position they hold, the enormous complexities and pressures they face in their roles, which can sometimes lead to missteps or errors in judgment. The higher they climbed, the further they fell. It is essential to recognise that true leadership goes beyond mere worldly accomplishments and encompasses character, resilience, and the ability to learn and grow from failures. And it all begins with a fundamental question: "What do you stand for?" In other words, do you clearly understand the values, beliefs, and principles that your leadership stemmed from?


"What do you stand for?" is about the fundamental principles, values, and beliefs defining who you are. It encompasses your core convictions, moral compass, and the ideals that guide your thoughts, actions, and decisions, which form the foundation of your leadership effectiveness. Asking yourself, "What do you stand for?" prompts introspection and encourages you to identify and articulate the core beliefs and convictions that shape your worldview and influence your behaviour.

Determining what you stand for requires considering what matters most to you, what you deeply care about, and what you believe to be right and meaningful. When you know what you stand for, your values become a rallying point that brings people together. In times of uncertainty or change, leaders who remain steadfast in their principles provide stability to their teams and organisations. 

Clarifying what you stand for encourages self-awareness and introspection, challenges your assumptions and evolves as a leader. Leaders of such are less likely to compromise their principles or engage in unethical practices. They prioritise fairness, transparency, and accountability, setting an example for others and fostering an ethical culture within their teams and organisations.


Discovering what one stands for and remaining steadfast in challenging times requires self-reflection, self-awareness, and a commitment to keep digging, fine-tuning and evolving. 

Reflect on and connect with Your Values

Behind every single action sits your values. Think about experiences in your life that have significantly impacted you. Consider moments of joy, fulfilment, or personal growth. Reflect on what made those experiences meaningful to you and what values were present during those times. Connect your values to your leadership by defining what impact you want to make. How do your values align with the goals you want to achieve and the decisions you make? Evaluate options based on their alignment with your core beliefs. Prioritise decisions consistent with your values and contribute to your vision and purpose. 

Identify and build your Personal Qualities 

Consider the traits you believe are important for living a fulfilling and purposeful life and the qualities you admire in others and strive to embody yourself. You can reflect on the activities or causes that ignite a sense of passion and motivation within you. The topics or issues you find yourself consistently drawn to or the kind of impact you aspire to make in your personal and professional life, and what truly brings you fulfilment and a sense of purpose and identify the qualities that underpin these sources of fulfilment.

Assess and set Your Non-Negotiables

Consider the principles you believe are non-negotiable when you refuse to compromise on these values, regardless of the circumstances. They reflect your unwavering commitment to specific moral or ethical standards. Set aside the time to introspect and identify them. Reflect on experiences that have shaped your worldview and identify key themes and convictions that resonate with you. Write them down and make sense of what they mean to you personally.

Walk the Talk 

As a leader, your actions speak louder than words. Invest your time and energy to consistently demonstrate your values through your behaviour and decision-making, if possible. Your consistent activities will reinforce trust and build credibility with your team. Research showed that only 10-15% of leaders have accurate self-awareness; therefore, actively seeking feedback from your team and stakeholders, and asking for their input on how well your actions align with your stated values is essential. Leaders receptive to constructive feedback demonstrate humility and a commitment to continuous improvement.

True Leadership

Finally, take full ownership of your actions. Actions speak louder than words. Let your deeds, not your words, reflect who you are, what you stand for, and demonstrate your character and commitment through tangible actions. Thus, you establish yourself as a trustworthy, inspiring, and effective leader.

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Edited by: Kiran Tuljaram

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Ella Zhang, author of Upgrade: How to outperform your default self to gain your superpowers, is a strategic change maker, organisational development specialist and coach, who helps business leaders to tap into their inner wisdom to design and fine tune people strategies, form up individual and organisational habits to create value and purpose driven workplacesFor more information visit www.EllaZhang.com.au



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