Photo Credit: CoWomen,

Written by Melpomeni N. Murdakes, CPC, ELI-MP
August 21, 2020

How do I make a difference?

Is my work having an impact on the community I serve?

Am I engaging my team in the pursuit of meaningful goals?

Today, more than ever, many of us are asking ourselves these questions. Whether we lead in a corporate setting, our community, a nonprofit, a classroom, or our homes, we’re all called to affect change. We all lead in multiple areas, and by recognizing our spheres of influence and becoming aware of our roles we set the stage for answering the call. 

In this era of heightened engagement, coaching leaders has taken on an amplified import. Crises can clarify our mission or muddy our vision. Actions are accelerated, response time-limited, and the impact of our actions magnified. The foresight of leaders seeking the benefits of coaching at this critical juncture will be rewarded.

The Three Building Blocks of Leadership DNA

I’ve been coaching clients at various phases of their journey, from emerging to immersed to legacy leaders.

Through the course of my time with each, I’ve come to discover the three building blocks of leadership DNA. Regardless of age, background, or organization, the leaders who are truly making a difference, contributing beyond their own sphere, share these core attributes.

Transformative leaders:

  1.     Adapt a growth mindset
  2.     Demonstrate value
  3.     Cultivate contribution

While not “one and done,” these are each essential drivers ensuring we stay relevant and responsive, strengthening our organization, team, and the individual players who are looking to us for guidance and direction.

Leaders who engage in a coaching relationship recognize that inspiration begins within.

We don’t have all the answers . . . but we do have the questions. 

Particularly for new and emerging leaders, the temptation to appear to know it all can be overwhelming. The compulsion to prove we belong, to validate our worth, can cause an overreach that doesn’t make space for true learning and fruitful growth.

Immersed leaders can feel the pressure to hold onto their power, prompting a defensive posture which limits the openness essential to lead. Finally, legacy leaders may be so entrenched in their established success that they limit their view of the next wave of innovation.

I’ve had the pleasure recently of coaching a professional mentor preparing to hand the reigns of his 41-year-old consulting practice to the next generation leader. In working with my mentor and friend, I found the refreshing reassurance that age alone can’t hinder growth. The most inspiring leaders are endlessly curious and open to change.

Adopting a growth mindset welcomes the unknown, celebrates exploring new ideas, and revels in asking empowering questions.

Striking an astute balance between what we know and bring to the table and an awareness of the potential we want to explore allows us to create a safe space for creativity and growth. Inviting others to share in this dynamic builds trust.

In coaching my mentor’s successor, I discovered the vibrant energy that resonates with the desire to honor success by contributing to its continued growth and evolution. This requires the deft leveraging of a respected track record with the future it can propel you toward.

What have you done for me lately?

Illustrating our impact may seem straightforward for many leaders, yet the tendency to reiterate our accomplishments as we see them may leave those whom we’re called to serve left behind. As leaders, we focus our lens on others. Demonstrating our value must be seen in the context of our constituents–their perception is our reality

In my work with an immersed leader of an association of regional communities the concepts of value and contribution have been central. These communities have their own concerns at their core and have traditionally operated with an approach more competitive than collaborative.

Looking to create a systemic shift in the ethos of the association, we focused on illustrating the characteristics that draw these groups together, the values they share. These connections can be difficult to see from a single group vantage point, but they’re key to the leader’s view. Offering this perspective and bringing groups together is this leader’s value-add. The resulting receptivity demonstrates their appreciation.

Whether we’re considering employees, citizens, clients, students, or sons and daughters, our value’s acknowledged through our service to others and to the greater good that unites us. 

Our value must be reflected in our mission, our ethos, our impact. Widening our lens from an individual perspective to that of the community elevates our understanding of the influence of our leadership.

Individual goals placed in the context of their broader value encourage personal development in service to our cause. Awareness of the optics of our leadership, how it’s perceived and received, can guide our intention to build affinity and trust.

We’re not in this alone.

Leaders who isolate or limit their engagement with their team leave valuable resources at the ready for others to influence. The significance of contribution is modeled at the leadership level and cultivated at every level beyond. 

From the youngest children learning how they can help with family tasks to the seasoned executive mentoring those in their sphere, engaging players in the fulfillment of shared goals–from a smooth family clean-up to upholding a culture of talent development–is vital to sustained and meaningful success. 

From coaching leaders in official roles to individuals who lead in their own circles, I see the cultivation of contribution in others as a sure sign of a transformational leader. It requires maturity, humility, and a generosity of spirit to see that the success of others adds to rather than distracts from our own value.

For emerging and immersed leaders, this can require an intentional shift from a competitive to a collaborative approach leading to strategic engagement. Legacy leaders may find their closing chapters focus heavily on cultivating contribution.

The lasting impact of our leadership is the fruit of talent nurtured and the enhanced commitment to the mission and values of the institution each individual extends in their own realm of influence. The legacy lives through the ethos and the people.

Photo Credit: CoWomen,