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By Ken Ideus

As a man changes his own nature...

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Mahatma Gandhi

This quote by Mahatma Gandhi has been shortened and changed over time to “Be the change you want to see in the world” or, more recently “Be the future you are trying to create.”

While Gandhi’s original sentiment may have been a bit different than these later renditions, they are still powerful challenges, when taken seriously.

As leader’s, we are best advised to leave the world of platitudes and throw away phrases behind.

We do however challenge leader’s to take their words and the way they convey them very seriously.

1. A message is more than the content.

Our way of saying “Be the Change” is “Be the Message”.

We often focus more on the content of the message, than on how we get the message across.

Our definition for Leadership is “creating a future that does not yet exist” and one of our most powerful tools for creating the future, or creating change, to put it less dramatically, is our voice.

Yet, we often reduce our voice to a transmission device.

We focus on the content, then use our voice as a vehicle for “getting the message across”.

Using our voice to “get the message across” is a bit like using a super computer to compute our basic times-tables. It does the job but we are using only a small fraction of the computer itself and only a fraction of it’s potential. Here’s an example of not using the potential we have. Several years ago, when we installed our first word processor (yes they were separate machines the size of a desk with 10 inch floppy drives) our secretary would use the word processor to draft letters, then look at them on the screen and retype them on her electronic typewriter.

In a similar way, as leaders, when we only focus on the content of a message, we don't use the full potential we have to create change through our message.

2. Embody the content. Be the message.


Ideally, when speaking about a change, that change is aligned with our values, emotions, purpose and general sense of who we are and what we are about.

When that is so, our message not only comes from the words and our voice, it is carried by our whole body.

We in essence become the message.

Our impact grows significantly when we communicate in an integrated and fully aligned manner.

As listeners, we all know when we’ve experienced this authentic communication, which brings us back to the author of our original quote. Gandhi, was, his message. A similar capability could be attributed to Nelsen Mandela and to Martin Luther King.

While we might think these role models are beyond us, remember that each of these three giants was humble and modest, simply striving for what was right in an authentic way.

Ken Ideus

This series on authentic leadership is written by Ken Ideus who is well known globally for his work on "The Leaders Voice". Ken has worked for the last 30 years with multi-national corporates in over 30 countries, doing both consulting and senior leadership development in the USA, Europe and Africa. You can read more about his articles and tools, and about The Leaders Voice.

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