The Five Leadership Senses

Our senses inform us of our surroundings – what we see, hear, smell, feel, or taste. We also have five leadership senses that work together to guide our decision making as a leader. A keenly aware leader will use each of these senses to navigate through the challenges of leadership.

Sense of Self

Every one of my favorite movies deals with the main character emerging victorious because they have discovered who they really are. A leader needs to be authentic and transparent to themselves before they can do the same with their team. You cannot improve what you are not aware of – having a clear sense of self provides us the confidence to lead and the humility to grow.

Sense of Family

The family that raised you is also the first team you have ever been a part of. Countless experiences shape the stories of your childhood that evolve into your sense of family. What were those moments you experienced growing up that have become the stories you retell yourself as a leader? Which stories you choose will frame your sense of family. Your sense of family will shape the type of legacy you want to leave as a leader.

Sense of Belonging

All of us belong to different groups – church, friends, soccer parents, etc. The word “belong” can mean “property of”. Think about which groups you have become the “property of” and you’ll discover the source of your sense of belonging. Keep in mind that the groups we belong to generate subconscious models of leadership that we reference as we lead. Your sense of belonging will shape the values of the groups you develop as a leader.

Sense of Place

Where you are from provides you something valuable to share with the place you are now. The place you are now also has many valuable things that help you grow as a leader. You develop your sense of place when you connect where you are from to where you are at now. A strong sense of the place acts like the roots of a tree – it both anchors and nourishes your growth as a leader.

Sense of Purpose

Children are often reminded to “do what they are told”. We carry this voice into our adulthood and it helps ensure we complete the tasks we are assigned. The leap from worker to leader is accompanied with a greater sense of purpose. We do this because we know why it is important – not just because we are told. How deeply do you understand why you are called to be a leader? A strong sense of purpose inspires, clarifies, and magnifies the impact you have as a leader.

Sharpening Your Senses

As we get older, our physical senses get worse as we use them more. We can choose to get glasses or hearing aids to improve these senses. On the other hand, our leadership senses improve the more we use them.

Reflect on which sense you rely on most as a leader. Is it the right sense to use with the decisions set in front of you? Remember that a plate of food that looks terrible may be the best tasting dish you have ever devoured!

Think about the sense that you use the least. What situations can you sharpen

How Do Leaders Grow?

Leadership is influence. Leadership is serving. Leadership is power. Leadership is _____________. Go ahead – fill in the blank.

What you feel leadership is today will evolve as you grow as a leader. As a leader, you have and will encounter an enormous range of experiences that shapes your definition of leadership. Through your journey as a leader, you will find that leadership is simply the tool used to empower your team to succeed.

The best leaders view leadership as a process of growth rather than a status. Think about where you were six months ago as a leader. How have you grown? Where do you still need to grow? Which area are you most scared to grow? Let’s take a look at these three questions:

How Have You Grown?

We all grow as leaders. We rise to meet the challenges of leading our organizations and teams. Growth makes us feel successful. It builds trust and confidence throughout the people we serve. Growth builds momentum and can become contagious. Your leadership growth can be used to measure your success as a leader. In short, leadership growth is almost always a good thing!

Where Do You Still Need to Grow?

Everyone has areas in their leadership that needs to grow. An effective way to grow as a leader is to focus on one area of your leadership at a time. Once you have improved that area, then you can choose another area to develop.

A mistake many leaders make is choosing an area that would selfishly support their own view of their leadership. Before you pick an area to grow, take a step back and look at the needs of your organization or team. What do they need for you to grow in as a leader? Leadership is never only about you as a leader.

An example of this is a leader who wants to work on making better decisions. They can learn new decision making strategies, change how meetings are run, and reduce the amount of time before a decision is made. However, the team doesn’t need the leader to improve their decision making skills as much as they want the leader to improve the clarity and consistency of their communication.

Choose the area of leadership growth based on the needs of your organization – not on your own personal perspective of your needs.

Which area are you most scared to grow?

My wife is amazing. She speaks the truth, challenges me to grow, and is not afraid to go there with me if needed. Recently, she asked me to do something and I kept procrastinating until it turned into an argument. I ended up jumping in the truck and going for a drive when she spoke the truth that I was avoiding:

“You don’t want to change even though you know this is the area you need to change the most.”

I didn’t want to change. I was scared because it was an area that I failed in so many times. I tried to think through how it would end-up and every single story ended in failure.

Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey wrote about the challenge of leadership development in their book Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization. We all want to feel safe as a leader, so we hide from those things that could threaten our view of leadership.

I began to think about how my own desire to feel safe wasn’t as important as doing what my wife was asking me to do. I needed to be the leader in my family, even if I was scared to grow in that specific area my wife knew I need to grow.

So I did it. I did what my wife asked and it ended up well. It made my family stronger and made me a better leader of my family. Often times the area which we are most scared to grow is the one that will help us to grow the most.

Leaders grow best when they have someone to guide them through the process. If you don’t have a leadership coach, you need one to intentionally improve your leadership. Contact Empower Consulting at to schedule a meeting.

What a Leader Really Needs

What do you really need as a leader? A bigger budget? Better trained employees? A healthier workplace culture? All of these things would help your school or business grow, but is it what you really need?

Leaders are often picked because of skill in a specific area. The most productive worker is promoted because they can produce. A teacher moves into administration because they have high academic success in their classroom. Yet the main job of a leader is to lead people.

What we have in schools, businesses, and churches are leaders who haven’t been trained in the one main thing they are expected to do – LEAD! I’m in my first year as principal and I thirst for those times where I am challenged to reflect and grow as a a leader. I’ve realized the most difficult challenge is that I don’t have a coach or network to help me grow as a leader!

I’m starting Empower Consulting – a leadership consulting business based in Kona, Hawaii. We are focused on building leaders who empower their teams to success. I’ll be providing workshops, webinars, and leadership retreats to support and serve leaders in schools, non-profits, churches, and businesses.

Are you a leader who wants to grow in your leadership? Contact me at to find out how I can serve you!