How to Know It’s True Leadership

What True Leadership Looks Like

What is your mental image of leadership? Someone strong and serious? Or loud and aggressive? Maybe, maybe not? Here’s how to know if it’s true leadership.

🎨 I have to paint a picture for you… A tall, hard-looking, buff man (I don’t know any other way to describe a tall man with huge muscles who wasn’t smiling 😆) came up to talk with me in the back of the room recently. I had just finished presenting a 60-minute training session on “Leading Through Conflict and Confrontation” at his organization.

I smiled, looked him in the eye, and stuck out my hand to shake his. As he shook my hand, he said, 

“I really enjoyed your program today.”

True Leadership Power

Still holding on to my hand in the most professional way, he paused for a moment to catch his breath. His eyes turned red and started welling up with tears… and he said,

“… As a leader in this organization for decades, I believed power came from walking into a room and taking charge; driving results. An iron first, if you will…”

He went on to say that he’s continued to learn and discover over time that true leadership “power” truly exists when the people on your team know that you care about them. And you truly do choose to care about them as a whole person, not just at work. He added… 

“When you choose to care about the people you work with every day as human beings, as you begin to plan and work towards a better future for everybody… 

The Results of True Leadership

“It’s incredibly ‘powerful’ to see the commitment, the effort, and the results people will accomplish with and for you because they know you care about them….That’s leadership, Alyson.”

Wiping away tears, he said, 

“You reinforced that today. You reminded me of the importance of valuing the people I work with…especially when we have to have hard conversations.”

True leadership power comes from genuinely caring about the people who work with you. It’s the secret to creating a supportive environment where team members feel valued and motivated.

It’s also an approach that can significantly impact team dynamics and performance. When leaders connect authentically with their team members, it leads to higher commitment, effort, and better results.

I share this with you in hopes it serves as a radical sign that you must focus on the people at work if you want the results at work. 

Or maybe as a simple reminder and encouragement that you’re on the right leadership path with your part of today’s workforce.

Something Leaders Should Think About

You may care about your people, but do they feel it through your actions, words, and decisions? Do you consistently show that you care about them as individuals — not just employees? It’s critical that they do.

Are there any changes you need to make in your leadership to meet the different expectations and needs of your team members?

What specific actions can you take to build stronger connections with individual team members — actions to create a culture of care and respect?

That’s the type of leadership that ignites success for you, for them, and for your organization. And I want that to be your story! 

For more helpful leadership ideas, check out our other blog posts!

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Image generated by OpenAI’s DALL·E

Alyson Van Hooser

Alyson Van Hooser, Pres & CEO, Van Hooser Leadership. With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn.


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