Leadership bloggers love to tout the qualities of the ideal leader: confident, humble, fastidious, engaged, self-aware, accessible, service-oriented, visionary, personable and a good listener with a big splash of ingenuity. The list goes on.
It’s a tall order, and if you actually consult with leaders, you know how impossibly rare this combination is, and how much time and effort it takes for most leaders to cultivate the “soft skills” that would enhance these coveted qualities and increase their influence.
And then, every once in a while, a leader emerges who embodies nearly all of those rich qualities that sound so good on paper. And upon contact, your being hums with recognition.
This is what happened the first time I encountered Chris Guillebeau; world traveller, author (The Art of Non-conformity; The $100 Start-up), blogger, community leader and creator and director of the World Domination Summit.
For those not in the know, that title would be ironic. The World Domination Summit (this year marked the third) is actually an inspirational conference for like-minded folk — largely comprised of location-independent, blogging service professionals — who share the values of community, adventure, service and the dreams of living a remarkable life. I recently attended this conference for the second time.
The title is also ironic, because as a leader Chris models ease and exhibits no traditional traits of a dominator. Let me make a disclaimer: Although I am admiring his leadership qualities, I am not a rabid C.G. follower or fan. I am not an much of a traveller or adventurer. His well-crafted products do not interest me. I am rarely moved to read his blog, although I loved the story of his visit to a small, unrecognizable country, the second to last in his world tour — yes, he has visited every country in the world at age 35.
I don’t know him personally.
But Chris’ leadership is evident in what he has created: a life he loves; a loyal following of multi-genrational fans who are inspired by his message and role modeling to live passionate, non-conformist lives; an annual, massive, life-changing event with first-rate speakers run by a team of fresh-faced volunteers; a deep understanding of the connection between service and marketing, and a relaxed stage persona, unclouded by ego, which transmits calm, confidence and accessibility.
If you have been a student or a teacher of leadership you will quickly recognize in him the natural talent that many leaders strive for. He is not unfeeling; yet it is difficult to imagine Chris getting reactive or ruffled. Although this observation is pure projection on my part, the reality of it is nearly verified by the masses of people who joyfully work for free on his behalf. Few would willingly volunteer for a domineering grouch, barring post-grads looking for internship positions in renown law firms and film studios. This year’s summit (3,000) tripled in size from the year before, and required renting out large sections of the city of Portland, OR. That level of event expansion and coordination, because of the delegation and cooperation required, is difficult to achieve if you have attitude, unless of course you are connected with the Mafia.
Studying Chris in his leadership with the community was one of several worthy conference features for me. Stay tuned for a post on how the conference impacted my personal leadership. It’s called, “My Ego is on Fire” and should be posted next week.
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