REAL Leaders – please step up, stand out and show the way.


I love how what you choose to focus on, the universe then seems to throw more of that stuff your way; like you suddenly get more of it or see more of it everywhere.

While juggling several balls up in the air and in the midst of major changes, the theme I chose for last month’s business Facebook posts, and my Monday Morning Momentum video shares, was about REAL leadership.

So, here’s the thing. I recently returned from participating in a Local Government forum for Inspiring Women’s Leadership, where the word REAL seemed to be a reoccurring feature across the various presentations and workshops.   From understanding the REALity of gender imbalance in senior positions, to being REAL and bringing the REAL you into your work role, to being a REAL leader.  It was certainly an event that ticked many of my boxes; further cementing my own thoughts on the matter of what ‘being REAL’ is.

Now I know that we all take away different core messages from attending these things, and given my passion [and therefore a heightened radar] for developing and supporting authentic, genuine, ethical leaders [aka REAL leaders], of course I’m going to hone in on the learnings that float my boat.

Here’s what I know, from my own experience and from listening to others on the topic of REAL leadership.

We need REAL leaders.  The world is crying out for the REAL thing. Frankly, we have too much fake stuff; corrupt, disingenuine, self-serving, seat-warming, egotistical, positional, power-hungry leaders; those who are not leading for greater good outcomes.  Those who are not the right role models for our emerging future leaders.

Will the REAL leaders please step up, stand out, and showcase what REAL leadership is? Yes – we do have some, and yes – we need them to be the game-changers and mentors of our future leaders.

What’s REAL leadership look like, sound like, feel like?


A REAL leader takes responsibility for their own actions, and the impact their actions [or decisions] is having on others. They also take responsibility for the actions of those they lead; understanding that a leader’s role is to enable and empower others to do the right things in the right way. Modelling the way and what is expected is a core requirement of being a REAL leader.

A REAL leader is responsive [in a timely manner] and responsible for the way in which they respond.  Taking a stand, making decisions, showing the way, providing instruction; REAL leaders are not afraid to challenge and change the status quo.  REAL leaders know that doing nothing, or sticking their head in the sand, is not a response; not leading at all.


A REAL leader consistently demonstrates high levels of integrity and knows what doing ‘ethical leadership’ means. They have strong values and morals, well-suited to their leadership role, that guides them to make the right decisions for the right reasons; not because they have a right to do so, but because it is the right thing to do. A REAL leader knows and shows that difference.

A REAL leader is one who takes their people on the journey with them. Sharing an inspired vision of where they are heading, clarifying why this is the way to go, and enabling others to take the lead through mentoring and coaching.  REAL leaders create and empower more leaders, because they know that WE will always create better results than just ME outcomes.


A REAL leader embraces their authenticity; they are the real deal – always. They are clear on who they are, solid on what they stand for, consistently walk their talk, and live by their personal brand. Authenticity is about being genuine; it has no ON and OFF button – it’s always ON. REAL leaders know that their reputation is everything. Authenticity + Integrity are core components in building trust.

A REAL leader understands that the world is constantly changing and subsequently, so are the expectations of those they serve – employees and clients. They flex with the zigzags, know the value of anticipating change, and are willing to rethink their original assumptions.  REAL leaders don’t just embrace change; they lead it and drive it.


A REAL leader is forever the student; constantly researching, exploring better ways, creatively thinking and continually learning. They know that competence + currency = credibility, and credibility is another core component in building trust. REAL leaders know that those who stand still – ripen and rot; those who continually learn – grow and keep evolving.

A REAL leader is a good listener. They know that they don’t have all the answers, and they know in their busy day-to-day work, they don’t get to see everything or know how everyone feels or thinks.  REAL leaders seek out this information; not just through feedback surveys; they regularly schedule time to engage, observe and listen. One more thing: REAL leaders also listen to their inner voice; they take notice of the alarm bells and have learned to trust their gut instincts.

Let’s promote, showcase and celebrate REAL leadership.

While there’s so much more that could be written on this topic, REAL change and progress will only occur if REAL action is taken.  Having the courage to say what needs to be said is one thing; following through with strong conviction and deliberate action requires a solid collaborative, shoulder-to-shoulder stance, firmly focused on the desired outcome: … we must develop and support more REAL leaders … please.

Finally, I believe the deliberate action that’s needed is a dual approach – happening simultaneously.

  1. We must boldly promote, showcase and celebrate the REAL leader role models, and;
  2. We must bravely shame, flush out, and disempower the fake leaders.

Seriously, the reality is; if we continue to accept, promote, and reward the fake or mediocre imposters sitting in the leadership chairs, this sends the wrong message to those who aspire to future leadership roles.

I urge you to:  Be REAL … encourage REAL … engage REAL … grow, support, and reward REAL leaders. 

Our organisations will have better futures and our world will be a better place … and that’s a ‘good for the greater good’ outcome.


Written by Jilinda Lee … Change Champion, Leadership Coach, OD Strategist, Writer, Speaker … Founder and CEO of Workforce Vitality and passionate inspirer of dynamic, game-changing leaders.

If you need a mentor to help you build REAL leadership skills, contact Jilinda for a free 15-minute chat.

If you would like Jilinda to provide a lively, ‘tell-it-like-it-is’, inspirational talk at your next function, contact us for a chat about that.


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