Authentic Leadership: Living and Leading Outside-the-Box


I have worked for a long time only to find too many people with little passion for change. They simply want to “stay inside their box.” There are also too many leaders and managers that look at their way being the correct one.

Very rarely do these types want to listen to new ideas or embrace the ideas of others (or even their own.)

Inside and Outside the Box Thinking

I am a very passionate leader who loves to help others. I love to teach, train, educate, and live out dreams.

So here is my perspective on leadership. It boils down to living and leading in a state of low risk/low reward that I call Inside-the-Box thinking,  or living and leading in a state of higher risk/higher reward that I call Outside-the-Box thinking.

Living Inside-the-Box

Living and leading with an inside-the-box mentality allows one to feel that the world is safe and secure; there is uniformity, control, and routine. Most people would prefer to stay inside-the-box because change only exists in small doses. This box is a symbol of how one’s world does not have to be perceived differently beyond basic vision.

Although there is perceived safety, comfort, and control, this thinking has its downsides, too.

Staying inside a box restricts growth and a the ability to branch out and meet new people developing great ideas, taking great leaps and doing amazing things. The world would be a boring place if everyone lived inside the box. The box is where dreams stay dreams instead of becoming a reality.

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Living Outside-the-Box

Stepping outside-the-box requires courage and willpower. Outside-the-box is a place of the unknown and frequent changes, where new people can be met and great accomplishments can become achieved. Stepping outside-the-box can be a scary and unconformable place for those who are used to living with an inside-the-box mentality.

A person usually will step outside of the box only to take a “giant leap” to a different box, or just to another box that is just bigger.

Rarely does one leave their box with enough courage, determination, and fight to really increase their influence and live a bigger dream.

But however the risk, living outside-the-box is a place of creativity and desire. This place is completely new and exciting all of the time. It is where change is like a rapid river moving from mountain to valley allowing for exploration and mistakes to happen. Those who live with little fear will thrive in this space allowing for dreams to become reality and for great progress to exist.

This place is a great platform to teach, train and experience what the world has to offer.

Are Leaders Born or Made?

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Authentic Leadership comes from those who live and lead outside-the-box.

To understand this, answer this question:

Are Leaders born or Are They Made?

  • There are those who are born with the ability to live without the need for a box, they live freely outside-the-box and naturally influence others.
  • There are those who have lived in a box and have taken a leap by listening to those whose passion for outside-the-box ways have inspired them. They found an inner passion to live among those who thrive outside-the-box.
  • Then there are those who were designed or taught to live inside-a-box and follow the world build for them to tell the tales about the possibilities that are outside-the-box they wish not to leave.

I have seen passionate people stop from leaving the confines of their box because they didn’t want to “risk it all.” I have seen people fall and not want to get back up. I have seen people succeed and never look back.

But for me, I live and lead outside-the-box. I live and lead in a world not yet created.

Future leaders need not ask the question “Are Leaders born or made?” They simply lead the answers they wish to find. Leadership is not a focus on the question “why?” Leadership is the desire to find “the how?”

So many have asked the question are leaders born or made, what is your opinion?

One of my favorite answers is this:

Leaders are born to be made.”

Change involves people of all types to coexist in a movement toward progression. What are some of the biggest challenges for change leaders today?

What will it take for a inside-the-box thinker to break the stagnation and become a great leader? What sort of courage is needed? How can you help others gain that courage and teach them to live outside-the-box? I wold love to hear your thoughts!


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Michael R Stanford is Doctoral Learner at UOP
He does occasional motivational speaking for community colleges
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1 Comment

  1. Al Gonzalez on May 20, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Good article Michael. Are you familiar with the work of the Arbinger Insitute? Specifically, the book Leadership and Self-Deception?