A Firewalker's Guide to Leadership
Here’s the thing about leadership that a lot of people either don’t understand or refuse to believe: everyone can and must be a leader at some point in their lives.
What is leadership?
Leadership takes many forms. Most obviously, it can look like one person leading a group of people on a path to a particular goal. But leadership is also how you, as an individual, choose to lead your life. It’s a term that can be used to describe how you manage your family, your relationships and your job — because, even if you don’t think you’re in a formal “position of power,” in reality, you are. You’re responsible for shaping your life however you choose to. We all are.
It’s also important to keep in mind that leadership is not a zero-sum equation. When one person harnesses their powers to lead, it not only doesn’t diminish the leadership opportunities of others, it strengthens them. In other words, the best leaders empower others to become effective leaders as well.
Leadership is a skill you can learn
Whether you’re a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a colleget student trying to manage a pile of homework, leadership is about creating and compelling positive, lasting change.
A common misconception of leadership is that it’s something you’re born with, that the greatest leaders the world has seen were born with some innate magical quality that allows them to lead better than others. But that’s simply not true.
Leadership isn’t a position — it’s a skill and a tool you can continually cultivate and use to create lasting change and provide certainty to others in times of uncertainty. Leadership is not something you’re born with or without – it’s a creative muscle you can strengthen and develop over time. And it’s founded on the idea of influence.
Can you influence yourself? Can you influence the thoughts, feelings and emotions of another human being? How about a group of human beings? That’s what leadership is. An idea is only an idea, one that will ultimately die, unless you can become a person of influence — a person who can influence and lead your team toward that idea’s fruition.
What is outstanding leadership?
What is leadership? Great leadership — quality leadership — is servant leadership. Servant leadership refers to someone who’s looking to influence others to serve the greater good. They don’t just want to get from Point A to Point B, and they’re not looking for an outcome that only benefits themselves; a great leader always has the big picture in mind. They’re figuring out ways to influence their culture in such a way that everyone who’s part of it benefits. Serving the greater good is their driving force, also known as their purpose.
The very best leaders in the world all have a distinct purpose in mind before they take action. Without that purpose, you’re much more susceptible to failure, prolonged ruts and depression. That’s because purpose is what sustains us when things get tough — and things will always get tough.
Your purpose is the juice that will drive you to keep going when you face the obstacles and challenges that are so inevitable of any worthwhile journey. It’s what will pick you up and uplift others around you whenever setbacks present themselves. It’s your energy. It’s Kryptonite for defeat and discouragement, and it’s what will give you focus and direction amidst the chaos. In other words, your purpose is the North Star of leadership.
Can you be a great leader?
There are all sorts of different leaders in this world with myriad goals they’re aiming for, but there are a distinct set of learned qualities and styles that unify the best. An appropriate leadership definition is someone using their skills to influence others. They are committed to using time, dedication, consistency and a distinct purpose to achieve their goals. You, too, can cultivate these skills and become one of the greats.
Not all leaders are necessarily good leaders. Few are truly great leaders. What sets the great apart from the bad? Learn the fundamental skills of an outstanding, inspiring leader.
Leadership comes in different shapes and styles, each with its own strengths. Learn what these are and see which one is best suited to you and the outcome you’d like to inspire towards.
Outstanding leaders share common traits and qualities. By studying the best and emulating their actions, we can fast track our own leadership mastery and inspire positive, lasting change.
As a leader, do you want to learn how to motivate people and influence them? Learn the skills, strategies and tools used by Tony himself to inspire others to empowerment and fulfillment.
We took a high-level view of the characteristics of a great leader above. Let’s dig a little deeper now. Every great athlete has a coach and, fortunately for us, there are so many inspirational leaders that we don’t have to look far to pick up what the core of these features, or qualities, of influence and leadership are.
So what are these traits of an outstanding leader and how can we apply them to our own lives? Let’s take a look at Tony’s 10 essential qualities of leadership.
If there’s one thing a leader needs to be able to do it’s the ability to make tough decisions. It comes with the territory of mastering uncertainty, of being able to lead others where they are too timid to explore on their own. This isn’t to deny the difficulty of the task and the undeniable stress that comes with it. So how do we make the decisions we need to and keep ourselves sane?
Decision-making starts from the heart and the brain. It has everything to do with our energy and our emotional state, which are completely in your control. Learn the principles of heart breathing.
The ability to influence, to drive action that creates long-lasting change, is a question of creating a vision that compels. Easier said than done, right? How do we form goals, objectives, outcomes that really reveal the passion in us and our team? The truth is that the power to compel and propel is within all of us, we just need to learn and practice the skills to harness that power.
If you want to influence and drive change, not just in people but also in the world around you, check out Tony’s goal setting workshop.
Want more on leadership?
Inspiring leadership in others is one of our main missions because it’s leaders like you who will help create a better world for our children.
Why We Do What We Do
In 2007, Tony gave one of the most popular TED talks of all times. His topic: what drives and inspires human action.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I improve my leadership skills?
If you want to improve your leadership skills, it helps to think of leadership in terms of influence. To be a great leader, you must focus on cultivating your ability to influence others (and yourself) to push harder, grow further and accomplish greater goals. Once you master the art of positive influence, you become a magnet for others; you become a person others turn to for guidance, insight and, yes, leadership. Find out more about becoming a master of influence and improving your leadership skills here.
As a leader, I want to make an impact on my peers. How do I do that?
The ability to make an impact on your peers is an integral part of being a great leader, so you’re already on the right track by asking this question. If you’re looking to make a lasting impact, then you must focus on honing your skills of influence to compel lasting change, which involves learning to recognize the patterns behind human behavior, figuring out how to help others identify what’s holding them back and developing the ability to apply the principles of human needs psychology. If that sounds like a lot, don’t sweat it — it’s actually a lot easier than you might think, and you can learn all about it here.
Leaders always seem to have so much energy. How do I get the energy of a great leader?
The cool thing about truly energetic leadership is that, more often than not, it has less to do with how much sleep one gets and more to do with tapping into a vision and sense of purpose. When people feel drained and exhausted, it’s frequently because their energy is divided in a million different directions via myriad internal conflicts. If you want to tap into your energetic potential, you must identify your unifying vision — your primary purpose for being on this journey to begin with — and refer to it day after day. Once you find that, you’ll discover that there’s no limit to your energetic power. Learn more about pure energy here.