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Unlearn Leadership: Why Being Yourself Beats Following the Experts

“The future of leadership is not out there in the frameworks, methodologies, and paradigms we adopt, but within us, in the hearts and minds of those brave enough to venture inward.”
— Bill Fox, Founder of LeaderONE

In a world overflowing with leadership guidance, we often find ourselves following the latest tactics, methods, or trends on social media.

However, what if BEING more—rather than DOING more—is the fundamental component of exceptional leadership?

In this article, we explore a fresh perspective on leadership that transcends conventional, often-overlooked self-improvement strategies.

The Leadership Development Paradox

In our search for better leadership, we’ve fallen into a bit of a dilemma. We voraciously consume leadership advice—devouring books, attending workshops, and amplifying the latest trends on social media.

We click, share, and applaud simple leadership maxims, creating an illusion of progress.

Yet, despite all this collective enthusiasm, the leadership crisis persists.


Because this approach often reinforces four beliefs:

  1. We are somehow not enough as we are.
  2. True leadership can be distilled into easily shareable soundbites.
  3. Following popular trends is the path to leadership success.
  4. One-size-fits-all leadership solutions exist.

This cycle of consumption, sharing, and not rocking the boat, while comforting, rarely translates into meaningful change.

We find ourselves caught between the pressure to constantly improve and the pull to follow the crowd, all while real leadership challenges remain unaddressed.

What if the key to better leadership isn’t found in the next viral post, model, or bestselling book, but in a place we’ve overlooked—within ourselves?

This never-ending quest for personal development may, ironically, slow our progress. It prevents us from concentrating on our own inner wisdom and instead keeps us fixated on what we lack and doing what others are doing.

Leadership as a State of Being

I’ve found that real leadership development frequently involves greater awareness and less doing. Awareness is the “space of consciousness” or the “background” to all our experiences. Learning how to become ‘aware of awareness’ is a crucial step in personal transformation and leadership.

Cultivating this awareness is the pathway to breaking free from ego-driven patterns and experiencing a deeper, more fulfilling, and less reactionary way of leading and living our lives.

What if our fundamental identity as leaders is more important than our actions? This perspective shifts our attention from skills to awareness. Finding a way to enter this ‘space of awarenes’ involves being totally present. It is from this place that leadership flows.

Allowing our true selves to come through is more important than honing our leadership persona. This leadership state of being isn’t just an abstract concept—it has tangible effects. In this aware state, leaders exhibit a unique set of qualities such as:

  1. Listen more deeply and respond rather than react.
  2. Make decisions with clarity and a higher perspective.
  3. Navigate challenges more easily, seeing things that others might overlook.
  4. Lead not just by experience or knowledge, but by being genuine and present.
  5. Motivate others through authenticity rather than force.

By being in this state of awareness, leaders go beyond just solving problems. They become catalysts for change. They inspire not with plans, but with their true selves.

This approach doesn’t just overcome obstacles. It reshapes the landscape of leadership. It creates a ripple effect that lifts whole organizations and communities.

The Leadership Journey Within

This is a very personal approach to leadership. It’s the journey I’ve been on for the past 13 years.

It requires looking closely at our inner landscape and making sense of the stories that shape how we see the world and ourselves.

It also challenges us to see past these stories, roles, and identities to uncover a more profound, constant awareness that resides within us.

We discover how to strike a balance between acknowledging our own experiences and the shared global consciousness as we set out on this inward journey. Although difficult at times, this path is incredibly transformative and fulfilling.

Useful Methods for Awareness-Based Leadership

So how can we develop this awareness-based leadership style? Here are some basic exercises to get you started:

  1. Be Present: Several times a day, pause and become aware of your breath. Don’t try to change it, just watch it. Feel the air moving in and out. This simple act brings you into the Now, away from the constant chatter of your mind.
  2. Listen Fully: When someone speaks, give them your full attention. If you notice your mind wandering or wanting to interrupt, gently bring your focus back to the speaker. Listen not just to their words, but to the silence between the words.
  3. Observe Your Thoughts: Regularly ask yourself, “Can I see my thoughts as separate from who I am?” Notice the thinker behind the thoughts. This creates a space of awareness between you and your mental noise.

These actions may seem straightforward, but over time they can significantly change your leadership and more. By engaging in practices like this over the past decade, I have profoundly changed my life, leadership, and work.

Awakening the Leader Within

Increasing your sensitivity to awareness helps you come to terms with your actual self beneath the layers of acquired behaviors, training, and social conditioning.

You become a more genuine, motivating, and successful leader when you open up to this deeper side of yourself.

This leadership journey is about self-realization, not just self-improvement. It’s an invitation to lead from your inner self, not merely from what you know.

Are you prepared to investigate this hidden paradox of leadership? One instant of awareness will set you on the path to a profound odyssey.

— Bill

Bill Fox

Connect with me: LinkedIn | billfox.co

Pioneering Leadership from Within | Unlocking Human and Organizational Potential

P.S. Check out our articles, workshops, and portfolio at LeaderONE.org for a more thorough exploration of these ideas. If you feel inspired to set out on your own journey of transformative leadership, consider attending one of our workshops. Get in touch to find out more and ways we can help.