What Approach Do You Use?

All leaders have the same goal—change things for the better.

However, they utilize different approaches to bring about change.

I believe there are four basic approaches leaders use to influence and inspire people to make positive changes.           

1.  Thought Leaders

These leaders introduce new ideas that have the power to change people and organizations. Some ideas even transform the world!

Thought leaders stretch us by presenting ideas that help us see new opportunities and possibilities. Oliver Wendell Holmes, a 19th-century American poet, made a great point when he said, “The human mind once stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimension.” 

Some ideas are game-changers—creating a whole industry, product line, or new production methods. Other times, their ideas generate smaller, incremental changes. But all change, whether big or small, starts with an idea.  

Thought leaders present their ideas in meetings, articles, books, journals, TED talks, blogs, and webinars.   

Three things make thought leaders standout.

  1. a)  Their ability to produce original and innovative ideas.  
  2. b)  Their aptitude at seeing opportunities that others miss.
  3. c)  Their talent at simplifying the complex.

Give it a try. At every meeting, offer up at least one new, fresh idea for each topic on the agenda. And while you are at it, try framing issues in creative ways by stating the basic question that needs to be answered.  

2. Action Leaders

These leaders influence us through their actions. They set a positive example. And, they are willing to be confrontational and demanding when necessary.   

Their actions demonstrate a strong commitment to their core beliefs and high standards. They are the first to speak up and often say what others were thinking but were afraid to speak.   

When leaders consistently live their values, they gain credibility and respect.    

 Three things make action leaders stand out:

  1. a)  Their willingness to stand alone when necessary.     
  2. b)  Their confidence in saying and doing what they think.
  3. c)  Their decisiveness.      

Give it a try. Be the first to speak up or take action on a controversial issue.     

3. Inspirational Leaders

These leaders get us fired up with their passion and uplifting messages! They bring optimism and energy to every interaction and meeting.  

They lift our eyes from our present problems to future possibilities. This type of leader taps into our desire to make a difference and do something positive in the world. Their stories touch our hearts. Their words create a sense of urgency that moves us to take action.  

Three things that make inspiring leaders stand out include:

  1. a)  Their passion for their message.  
  2. b)  Their ability to connect with people at an emotional level.
  3. c)  Their effectiveness at delivering an impactful speech.  

Author and leadership guru John Maxwell said that when you’re passionate about something, you’re all-in. These leaders are “all-in.”  They have no doubts that their ideas and plans will lead to success.    

Give it a try. In the next 30 days, try to inspire two or three people to pursue bigger goals or take the lead role on an important project.      

4. Servant Leaders

These leaders provide the help and support that we need to change. They often remove obstacles that are holding people back.   

There are two parts to being a “Servant Leader.” 

  •   The leading part is describing your mission, vision, values, and strategy in a clear, concise, and compelling way.
  •   The serving part is asking – “How can I help?” And then providing the required resources.    

Three things that make servant leaders stand out include:

  1. a)  Their willingness to help others.
  2. b)  Their ability to identify what people need to succeed.     
  3. c)  Their expertise in providing precise guidance and support that people need.    

They create an environment where we can do our best work.  

Give it a try. Next week, ask two people what you can do to help them perform at a higher level in one aspect of their job.  


You may have a favorite approach. However, the more comfortable you are at using each approach, the more effective you will be. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more adaptable you can be.   

When you use each leadership approach, keep track of what worked and what you learned. Keep fine-tuning your approach.  


There is more than one way to influence and inspire people to make positive changes.

  •   Present new ideas. Open people up to new ways of thinking.  
  •   Take decisive action. Set the example.
  •   Present powerful and uplifting messages (written and spoken).
  •   Offer help. Ask questions and make observations to determine what’s needed.  

 Be adaptable and help people to grow and develop.     

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