Leadership is not an optional choice to be made, but rather something that WILL come with success, and how it’s essential you choose who YOU want to be from the two primary types of leaders. Because if you DON’T choose, you’re leadership style will continue to be muddled with bad habits and a tactical vacuum. It will affect who you are, how people see you, and the behaviors of those who follow.
I’m Illana Burk, CEO of Your Life’s Workshop, coach to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs across dozens of industries and host of Good Business. With nearly 20 years experience helping hundreds of clients create profitable, ethically driven and sustainable businesses based on their life’s work, I’m here to teach you how to do great work, make great money, and make a positive impact without feeling like you need a shower afterwards.
Hi everybody. Today’s episode is a deep dive into why leadership is not an optional choice to be made, but rather something that will come with success and how it’s essential. Then you choose who you want to be from the two primary types of leaders. Yes, we’re going to talk about those two because if you don’t choose, your leadership style will continue to be muddled with bad habits and a tactical cyclone of just, “let’s try this next.” If you don’t actually step into a leadership role, the decision will get made for you. So we want to talk about how it will affect who you are, how people see you, and the behaviors of those who follow you. I fully expect this to be kind of a firebrand topic. Many of you listening will nod in agreement, and many will not.
I expect some of you will have a moment or two where you go, “oh, that’s why this never felt right.” First, let’s talk about the image, the imaginary non-choice about whether or not you want to become a leader. Why do I call it an imaginary choice? If you’re in business for yourself, there will come a point where you have to take the reins, or you’re going to fail. It’s that cut and dry. It is truly that simple. You can spend years and years being a service provider, being a responder, or being the person who provides something for money. Indicators of dysfunction as a service provider mean that you’re feeling unpaid, you’re feeling underutilized, there are not enough clients, there are constant changes, lack of growth, and all that stuff that service providers and freelancers complain about.
That is an indicator that you’ve chosen not to lead that you haven’t actually stepped into the role and gone (even if it’s just in a one to one way), “I’m going to lead you, I’m going to guide you. I’m going to actually step up in this process and take responsibility for the power that I have in this dynamic.”
When you don’t choose, when you fail to decide to lead, the decisions get made by those who are relying on you for guidance. This creates a massive level of imbalance and toxicity that can apply to any industry. I want you to know that if you own a store, you lead by setting taste. You lead by choosing one specific voice that all the products you sell carry through. You’re saying, “I stand for this.” If you’re a designer, you lead by knowing your stuff. You lead by knowing what the trends are and what’s popular and what will work in certain circumstances and what won’t. If you’re a teacher, you have to know what you stand for. You have to know what your style is.
Those are all leadership choices. In the absence of them, I promise you the people who follow you are making those decisions for you. They’re deciding who you are if you don’t.
Now, I want to shift gears for a minute and talk about the two kinds of leaders. There are obviously a thousand different permutations of leadership styles. We’re not talking about leadership style, we’re talking about a particular underlying ethos that you take through in all of your decision making and style choices. The first is those who feed their flock. Those who actually want to lead, they exist to be of service, to teach, and to help others grow. They lead from that place.
Then there’s those who feed ON their flock. Obviously, that’s the inverse. I don’t think I need actually to explain that too much. We’re going to go through exactly what the traits are of each of those two leadership styles. Those who feed on their flock are the ones who put profit over people. Conversion rates over service. They advocate for marketing funnels and sales tactics and how to leverage the people who follow you. We’ve all heard those terms, right? Leverage your audience. Gross. They leverage the people who follow for financial gain or reputation gain; who see their customer base basically as an ATM where all they have to do is sell the right thing and then cash in.
Let me make one thing really clear in this. There are a lot of really great people who behave this way and who behave strategically. They do this on purpose for two reasons. One, it’s effective. Unfortunately, it is effective to continue to sell to the same group of people, and that’s not actually wrong. I’m not saying selling to people is wrong. I’m not saying that continuing to sell more things people need is wrong. It’s how you do it. The other thing that they do, number two, they do because they were never told another way.
In contrast, those who feed their flock see things differently. They behave as if they are there to be of service to those who graciously provide them with their attention. They look for ways to make things accessible to all. They work to create offers that have a high impact and worry about the financial gains second. They operate from a ‘help first make money second’ position.
If you’re more inclined to be the latter and are realizing that right now, this explains all those, “why isn’t that working for me?” feelings. A lot of times when you’re kind of in misalignment, where you’re doing the tactics of one style but you actually want to behave in another, that’s why the tactics don’t work. It’s like seeing a cockroach at your favorite restaurant. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. You can’t know it’s bad and continue to do it and still expect the same results that everyone else is getting. That doesn’t work energetically. It happens all the time, because what happens when most people start learning about business? They wind up paying attention to the loudest voices because they think that if they’ve gotten to that place of success, they must be right. They must know something the rest of us don’t because the loudest voices are almost always the ones who fall into the former category. They rely on volume to create reach and reach to create a conversion, and he who shouts loudest really does win in marketing.
However, you don’t actually have to be the loudest or the biggest to be successful. You just have to know which kind of leader you want to be and stick with it fearlessly and repeatedly and for a really freaking long time. You have to decide and pay attention to it and do only that because the people who feel fed and nourished and cared for, they tell other people, they sing your praises, they delight in the specialness of being connected with you, and they don’t care if you have a bestselling book or a big name brand or a course that’s made millions of dollars because what you do for them makes such a deep difference and considers them to be equals. They get to bring their whole selves working with you and interacting with your business in whatever kind of business you have. This is how thriving referral pipelines begin. When you make a real difference for somebody, when you have a real effect on them, they tell everyone they know. It can’t just be good. It has to be real. It has to be genuine. It has to be deep. This is how real, life-long friendships and relationships are formed. How lifelong customers are formed who couldn’t imagine going to anyone else, no matter what the price is. This is how you make a real difference. If making a difference is truly your highest priority, do that first. I promise the money will follow. It’s not just a thing I say. It’s exactly how I do business. I’m of service first. I’ve helped people in all kinds of ways, sometimes for lots of money, sometimes not.
You know, I helped a cab driver once. I gave him a business outline for a t-shirt business he wanted to start. He dropped me off after getting a bunch of free business advice, and he gave me my cab ride for free. He came back a month later and left a card on my door saying that he had hit all of his revenue goals for the first time ever. That was amazing. Wouldn’t you rather get a card from a cab driver than make a big pile of money? I’m sorry, maybe that’s just me. I like making big piles of money as much as the next guy. I’m making a great living, and I’m proof that you can do that. I’m proof that you can lead and stand up for something, and stand up for what you believe in and also feed the people who believe in you first and always.
This is why I don’t have complicated marketing funnels. This is why I don’t do Facebook ads. This is why. Again, I’m not saying that these things are wrong, they’re not. It’s how you do them. It’s how you regard the people who give you their attention. That’s what dictates the type of leader that you’ll become.
This is a really nice tight, short episode today you guys because I really want you to just think about this one thing today. As you walk through your life, how do you lead? Who do you want to be? What example do you want to set for those around you? How do you want to show people that what you do matters and that you can help them? How do you do that? Whether you’re making money or not. For those of you who are sitting out there struggling, who maybe don’t even have their first client, who has no idea how to make money, do the work first. Figure out how you can do the work first and then figure out how to make money. Find out if you are even good at it. Find out if you have a voice that’s not already out there. Find out if you have something real to offer the world and lead from there. Lead by doing it. Show people what you’re made of. The money will follow, I promise.
Thank you all for your attention today. Deeply, thank you. It’s a privilege to be here. It’s a privilege to have your attention, and I don’t take that lightly. I hope that you will all join me for our next episode. I hope you will tell people about the voice you hear here. I hope this brings value to your week, and that’s always my highest priority. I want to tell you things you don’t hear other places. I don’t want to sell you things. I don’t want to make you feel like you’re about to be preyed upon, and in any minute I’m going to ask you for money. I’m not. I want to be of service to you, and I hope I’ve proved that today.
Thanks so much for hanging out with me today. For more information, visit TheGoodBusiness.co or YourLifesWorkshop.com.
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