What Great Leaders Have That Others Don’t


"Success is the ability to see what is hidden, to intuit, to sense, to connect from inside out so that the leader can anticipate, and direct the organization in an unknown future."

Inely Cesna | October 8, 2020

A leader must indeed have an "inner strength to lead," particularly when they are required to make extraordinary efforts and ask others to do so as well; or when they have to announce big layoff programs; or when they are struggling to live their values, sustain their commitment to continuous improvement, forgive and ask for forgiveness. These and many other situations certainly require great "inner strength to lead."

The question, however, is: where does that "inner strength to lead" come from? How can leaders access it and demonstrate it in a way that empowers others to do the same? How can leadership development, business or personal, guide leaders in connecting with that "inner strength to lead"?

One way of doing so is to find good mentors and coaches who can help leaders claim their strengths and talents to address the situation at hand. Leaders need mentors and coaches to point out the leader's unique qualities and support them in recognizing and expanding beyond their blind spots. Leaders need to carve out ways to reveal, release, and recharge, so they continue expanding.

The most challenging part of leadership development is to remain willing and open to recognizing blind spots. And this applies to personal as well as organizational transformation and expansion.

Transformation and expansion come from recognizing blind spots/gaps and the ability to fill in those gaps. In business, those gaps represent market opportunities that may have been neglected, unrecognized, or un-manifested. Those business opportunities can be hidden in plain sight, and corporations don't see them because they are stuck in old, rigid models that prevent them from recognizing such opportunities. This is how many great companies like Kodak, Blockbusters, and even Xerox have failed, and others like Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Facebook have succeeded.

Great leaders are ready to stick their necks out because they "see / know/sense" something that others don't. They direct their organizations with a clear mission towards that vision. How do they do that? That's the million-dollar question for leadership development.

To become even close to answering that question, leadership development has to work with the individual as a whole. Most importantly, not only on the behavioral level but also on the emotional, mental, unconscious, and spiritual levels.

There are two ways to go about living leadership. One is from outside in. The leader looks outside of themselves for their source of strength, inspiration, and motivation (there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not sustainable because the outside world is volatile). The other way is to live leadership from the inside out. Eventually, leaders must find their source of strength from inside out, from an inner place of higher attunement where they can receive a level of strength, inspiration, and enthusiasm that is far beyond their humanness.

Today, the business leadership development market in the U.S. is about $11.6 billion. This investment is mostly focused on developing the leader in their behavioral, mental, and maybe emotional levels, while mostly disregarding other levels like spiritual and unconscious.

Motivational leaders who are charismatic communicators are wonderful to promote stamina and ask their sales force to achieve greater numbers, but does that really define success?

What if success is something far greater than numbers? Success is the ability to see what is hidden (the gaps / blind spots), to intuit, to sense, to connect from inside out in such a way that the leader can anticipate, prepare, support, and direct the organization to sustain itself in an unknown and uncertain future.

Such a definition of success requires something a lot more profound than the ability to inspire others. Leaders must 'see beyond.' They must transcend.

There is a gigantic opportunity to optimize the returns on this US$11.6 bi investment by supporting leaders to transcend and develop at all levels (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually).

For leaders, forgiveness is an important part of transcendence because it helps them 'see / know /sense' with clarity, learning from the past, and reimagining the future. The question, here, is "how to forgive and forget?" Forgiveness means letting go of the judgment or 'againstness' altogether. To do so, leaders take the responsibility of forgiving themselves for carrying/being attached to the judgment or againstness, which doesn't prevent them from asking others for forgiveness when needed and allowing others the dignity of their forgiveness process.