Never in our lifetimes has transformative leadership been needed more than now. Take a moment to observe the world we live in. Turn off the 24-hour cable news networks and set aside your personal belief systems, biases, attitudes, politics, religion, and views about a myriad of social and economic issues. Yes, this is a big ask, but our times deserve reflective and objective introspection. What happens in the minds of each of us shapes the collective.

We’re seeing an epidemic scarcity of ethical behavior on the part of politicians, business executives, and companies masquerading as citizens. Add the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots, the irrationality of science deniers, the ever-increasing global violence, and the mass evacuation of entire populations due to leaders amassing power, and you have a world that’s out of control. We are in desperate need of redefining and realigning leadership at all levels and in all facets of our collective global world order.

Where to start, you ask? Good question.

Redefining Leadership.

Leadership, a noble enterprise, demands more than rote learning of corporate policy, established principles, and toeing-the-line managerial duties. Leadership incorporates the whole person, calling us to be more than we are, more than our title, more than our own limitations.

True leadership is an amalgamation of our life experiences. Leaders reach other human beings not via status or position, but from a mindset of authenticity, genuineness, and prudent risk-taking. If we measure success in accordance with what companies, organizations, and established systems ordain as competencies to master, we conform to a limited and constricted framework that ultimately leaves us half-filled, dissatisfied, and living well below our human capacity.

Redefining Ourselves.

True leadership also requires us to recast our view of ourselves. How often have you become the person someone else wanted you to be? From parents wanting us to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, painters, welders, or mechanics, to the companies acculturating us to live true to a title governed by corporate policies, we live everywhere but in a space that’s true to ourselves. We often relinquish our true essence, that part of us that is genuine, real, and speaks to our deepest, soulful selves.

We fail when we’re not living true to who we are, not asking for what we desire, continually trying to please others, all while unconsciously piling up resentments, anger, and inner turmoil that leads to physical, mental, and spiritual illness.

Becoming the conscious, engaged leader this era demands requires you to be the real you. Yes, this is harder than it sounds. But taking on this challenge generates resilience and, ultimately, the realization that you have the power to choose who you’ll become and how you’ll live your life.

Here are three real-world practices for stepping into the real you:

1. Believe you can make a difference.

There is a widely held belief that manifests in the question: “I’m only one person, what difference can I make?” The real you is a superconductive electromagnetic miracle, capable of energizing yourself as well as those you lead and serve. Stepping into the real you elevates your energetic flow because you’re aligning with your higher self, that part of your essence that shines a light on darkness. Others feel this — it’s visceral and restorative — debunking the myth that one person cannot make a difference.

2. Step into your power.

The dark side is powerful, but it’s not as electrifying and luminescent as the “Force.” When you step into authenticity, your output changes. Others are attracted to this energy, as strength, confidence, and caring are qualities sought by all of us. You have the power to change not only yourself but also those you lead, simply by being real. Cast aside the need to please everyone by contorting yourself into someone else. Be powerful. Be authentic.

3. Embrace vulnerability as a strength.

Contrary to conventional management wisdom, being vulnerable is a leadership strength. Vulnerability reveals your humanness, opening a portal for others to relate and connect. It leads to collaborations that are otherwise not achievable when title, authority, and hierarchy prevail. Human beings want to connect on a genuine basis. Show your humanness and watch what happens.

The time for conscious leadership is now. Be the you that shines your light on the darkness we’re experiencing. Don’t wait for others to take the gauntlet. Transformational leadership is within each of us. This thing we call life is not a dress rehearsal. This is the real deal. Be the real you.

**Originally published at Young Upstarts