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6 Ways Leaders Self-Multiply

Leadership is said to have a multiplier effect, probably because it’s contagious. What is it that leaders do that creates more leaders? Since leadership is an activity or practice not dependent on title or authority, it can be taught. Here are 6 things leaders regularly do that can attract people to the necessary work of leadership:

  1. Understanding the reality. Reality = challenge. It takes courage to face the sometimes ugly truth. Leadership means having the willingness to first acknowledge and face tough problems. This means having the humility to accept the true nature of a problem — even if you need to admit your own role in it. By tracing the roots of an issue or recurring problem, you have a better sense of how to correct it. It also requires understanding what’s at stake and identifying everyone involved—those who prefer the status quo, those directly causing the problem, and those pushing for change. You’ll notice that honesty and humility are two traits people find attractive in a leader.
  2. Clarifying the aspiration. You need to have a picture of what you want the future to look like after the change. If your destination is clear, how to get there becomes clearer too. Ultimately, leadership is about closing the gap between reality and aspiration. When you clarify a goal or an aspiration, it sends a message to your people: “I see the future – and it is beautiful!”
  3. Identifying the needed changes. With a better understanding of the problem and the aspiration, you will also have a better idea of the changes you want to make. You need to identify areas or items that must change to get to the root cause of the problem. When you do this all-important work with your team, you create a sense of shared ownership. And when people have ownership of something, they inevitably step up.
  4. Mobilizing resources. This is about leveraging and mobilizing every possible resource such as an expertise, knowledge, network or relationship, experience, as well as your personal assets — tangible and intangible — to help initiate that change. When you get more people onboard, you can’t help but broaden the leadership conversation.
  5. “Orchestrating.” When you’re in the thick of initiating change, you need to revise not just what you do but also why you do what you do. Improvising or “orchestrating” interventions, conversations, or decisions as you go along is needed to resolve personal, organizational, and community challenges that keep you stuck. With this complex and fluid action of “orchestrating,” people won’t help but notice how different things are. Some will like it, others won’t. Those who like it are already being drawn to the lodestone of leadership.
  6. Staying purpose-driven. At the end of the day, knowing the “why” behind your leadership, your purpose, is what keeps you going. It also helps orient others who may be struggling with their own reason for existence.

I personally use these 6 steps when dealing with challenges. These steps provide insights into what I should be mindful about when initiating change. When you model these steps in real life, you help other leaders stay focused on the work of leadership and inspire those who may not even consider themselves “leadership material.” Your influence and example help them grow in their own leadership. Encountering you personally builds up their capacity for small wins, proving that leadership work does bear fruits.


By Samuel Hungsoo Kim


Samuel is the Co-founder and President of the Center for Asia Leadership Initiatives (CALI), which annually runs 50 leadership programs based on the Adaptive Leadership framework first taught at the Harvard Kennedy School, in 32 Asian countries.