On Leadership

Ron Ford

On Leadership

Don’t forget sunscreen and, in case we haven’t told you lately, don’t forget that you are destined to be a hero – a transcedent leader who makes a positive impact on the world. – Ron Ford

Much has been written about the traits of successful leaders; among them integrity – a trait that we would all claim to possess, yet we often find lacking in others. How can both be true?

Each of us has an ethos, a value system that originates in the way we raised, our religion, our education, and our life experiences. It is our essence – who we are (in our own minds). Regardless of our faith, we believe in doing the right things and treating others as we would like to be treated.

As leaders, we are particularly sensitive to our ethos, our essence, our ethics, and the example we set for others. Indeed, we are trained in ethical behavior and have codes of conduct and ethics in our companies, professions and associations. We know what is expected of us.

Know thyself.

Yet every day leaders are accused of ethical failures – from priests and pastors to governmental officials and CEOs. How then is it that leaders, who know what is expected of them, fail to demonstrate integrity?

We each have duality – our shadows; the face that we show to others and whom we profess and aspire to be, and the face that we see in the mirror and in our late night thoughts. Indeed many leaders, researchers, artists, athletes and great achievers are driven by a fear of darkness and burning desire to escape the monsters that lurk in the shadows.

The best of leaders know their dark sides. Eastern philosophers describe our third eye, a higher consciousness and enlightenment that allows us to see ourselves existentially and use that vision and wisdom to guide ourselves from the shadows.

I looked away for a moment, and it became my life.

Our lives are complex and we live in an unprecedented time of noise. The pressure for more has never been greater – whether family, social or business. We frequently feel trapped by constraints yet facing demands that test our value system. At the margin we relax our ethics, this one time. Inevitably, like a gambler in a bad streak, we double-down, believing our luck will change (before anyone discovers the fraud). Soon, we lose our moral compass altogether.

To thine own self be true.

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.Shakespeare

As we perform in our professions we are measured and promoted based on what we do and resulting outcomes. Increasingly, as we reach the top, what we do becomes far less important than how we do it. At the pinnacle, what we do and how we do it become less important than who we are. Be certain that those whom you lead have their third eye on you and they will be measuring and modeling your character. Soon enough, your character is all that will matter.


  1. What is your essence? Who are you?


  1. What is your purpose? What are you doing here?


  1. What is in your shadows?


  1. Have you a personal code of conduct?


  1. Are you authentic?


Further reading:

Kevin Cashman, Leadership from the Inside Out, First Edition, 1998.

Ronald A. Howard and Clinton D. Korver, Ethics for the Real World, HBS Press, June, 2008.




Authentic leadership is playing the song of your life with depth, grace, passion, integrity and love. –Kevin Cashman (slightly edited)