Throughout my years in the workforce as a contributor and manager working for corporate, public organisations and NGOs, leading a nonprofit, speaking, conducting workshops, hosting events and running my own business – in all that time, I have come to know that leadership is everything.

There is, I believe, a leader shift happening – and about time.

The leader shift is a shift to identity – knowing who you are.

Because a leader can’t lead others until she can first lead herself – the more she works on herself, the more she can give to those around her.

Without a strong identity, we are more likely to be carried by the influence of our environment into a future requiring very little reflection and development.

Some people have commented to me on the posturing they observe by some people but the question is – are these people, true leaders?

True leaders are not looking to posture; true leaders are looking to make a difference and to fulfill their mission in life and business.

In my mahi, I help wāhine explore and understand their identity, guiding them through the process of clarifying their passions, purpose, and plans to align their visions for their lives with their realities.

What I know to be true is that when you link identity to the concept of leadership, they combine into a powerful entity that transforms lives, opens doors to potential and to opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.

While working with wāhine leaders, listening to and observing our speakers at the iWahine Leadership Hui, reviewing my research findings on Māori Women CEOs and reflecting on my time with mentors and other influencers over the years, here is my definition of a true leader, Wahine Toa.

Read and see if you agree with me.

True leaders, Wāhine Toa, know themselves inside and out.

They are at peace with who they are.

They don’t make excuses for not being strong in every area or for not being perfect. They know their strengths, and they can see how to use their strengths to their own and to an organization’s benefit.

They know what they care about and what they are passionate about, and they pour their energies into these passions.

They know how to build a team and be part of a team.

They know how to lead, how to encourage, how to motivate others – and themselves

They are authentic leaders who lead others with the skills they’ve developed.

They do not give up.

They stand strong on their principles.

They aren’t ruled by fear or other negative emotions.

They are problem solvers.

They see solutions where others see only roadblocks.

They are bridge-builders and people connectors.

They see potential not only in themselves but in others, and they nurture that potential. They bring energy and enthusiasm to their work.

They fully expect to fail and learn from that failure and to be better because of it.

They look forward to each day because of the possibilities it holds.

They naturally attract others because of their vitality, their optimism, and the value they bring to any group they are in.

They remain unfazed by the difficulties of life.

They know who they are, they know where they are going, and they know how they are going to get there.

And because they know these things, people follow them and respect them.

People pay attention to those who have a vision and who know how to live that vision out, step by step, day by day, decision by decision.

How many of these qualities do you have?

Don’t be concerned if you don’t have them all.

Few of us do.

But we can all work on developing them.

Leaders are made …and born. (I don’t know about you but I’ve never met a leader that wasn’t born.)

But true leaders, Wāhine Toa, are intentional about growing and practicing leadership every day.

Mauri ora!