A “TO-BE” List for Aspiring Leaders by Angela Maiers

”Being’ and ‘doing’ are inseparable aspects of your presence and influence.

-author unknown

I have the privilege each year of speaking to auditoriums full of aspiring young leaders, anxious to go out into the world and make their mark. They are looking for the “book”, the “roadmap” , the “words or wisdom” that will guide them to the things they need “TO-DO” next.

As we know, success in leadership and in the world is not only attributed to what you do; it is dependent on who you are and why you do.  Who you are comes across more strongly than what you sell or say.  We set young leaders up for a fall if we encourage them to envision what they can do before first considering the kind of kind of leader they want to be.

In supporting the kind of leader they must be, we enable and elevate their ability to influence, catalyze, and transform the future in a way we have not yet seen.

I have detailed the following TO-BE List for theirs and your consideration:

  • Be a Learner: You may have graduated from school, but never graduate from learning. Being a lifelong learner is what empowers your relevance for the rest of your life. Eric Hoffer captured it best when he said, In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Don’t be equipped for irrelevance- keep learning.
  • Be teachable Teachability leads to excellence and excellence makes people take notice. Being teachable reveals your desire to improve, grow, and be excellent in all you do.  It’s the excellent that often lead in any given field or industry. Don’t fail to learn all you can from those who went before you or to grow from your mistakes.  Seeking out coaches and mentors will push you light years ahead of where you would be if you travelled alone.
  • Be A Question Asker.  I have been teaching and writing about the importance of asking great questions for a long time.  Great questions are the best way to have a meaningful conversation, the best way to rope in a mentor AND the best way to look like a star performer.  Make it a priority to listen to people asking great questions. Be in charge of the questions you ask and keep a list of the best questions you hear.  Use this to create a question toolbox you use and can apply to every conversation and interaction you have.
  • Be Courageous. If there was ever a time to dare, to make a difference, to embark on something worth doing, IT IS NOW.  I understand jumping into the world as leader can be scary, but now is not the time to be timid.  We don’t serve the rest of the world or ourselves by playing small. Humanity’s misfortune is when we don’t realize the very gifts we have, or the impact we have the opportunity to make. It is imperative that you own and honor your genius, and seek to make a contribution that matters.
  • Be Kind:  We lead our lives in the company of others, and that is where we leave our legacy.  Truly kind leaders – regardless of their title or position  – are the ones we all remember. They’re the ones we are grateful to.  It’s the quality of our relationships that most determines whether our legacy will be momentary or long lasting.  Don’t ever pass up a chance to let others know they are noticed and that they matter to you.
  • Be Patient and Persistent: I want you to be fully rewarded and recognized for your contribution to society. I also want you to realize, however, that most things of lasting value take time and discipline to achieve. HAVE FUN. DIG DEEP. STRETCH. DREAM BIG. Know that things worth doing seldom come easy. There will be good days. And there will be bad days. There will be times when you want to turn around, pack it up, and call it quits. Those times tell you that you are pushing yourself, that you are not afraid to learn by trying. I promise you the wait is worth it.
  • Be Passionate– Passion is not only a differentiator; it is a difference maker. Passion makes the impossible possible. That’s what makes a passionate leader effective. He or she conceives of possibilities and opportunities for progress whereas dispassionate persons only see roadblocks and reasons why a vision can’t be achieved. The more passionate you are to achieve your purpose the stronger your fire and internal desire will be to strive for your mission and purpose.
  • Be Confident:  You will not always be able to solve all the world’s problems all at once.  But don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have. Your efforts might not always draw the world’s attention, but as Teddy Roosevelt liked to say, “I hope that you will commit yourselves to doing “what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are,” because in the end, that is what makes you a lion.  Not fortune, not fame, not your pictures in history books, but the refusal to remain a bystander when others are suffering, and that commitment to serve however you can, where you are. Be confident in your power to be the change.
  • Be Hopeful: History has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own. No doubt, we live in challenging times. We also live in a time where nearly ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. As a leader your ability to be hopeful and dispense hope is crucial to helping those you serve thrive in face of difficulty. And there is much to be hopeful for. Believe in the incredible power of the human mind. Of doing something that makes a difference.  Of working hard. Of laughing and learning.  Of all the things that will cross your path. Of the ability to start something new. All these bring the hope of something great to come. 

So, what do you think? Would you follow leaders with these traits and qualities? What can we add or do to help nurture those who seek or are called to serve?

Leadership is a choice. The choice is ours to help them make; TO-BE or NOT-TO-BE.

That is certainly of the question of our time.


Meet Angela Maiers

My life path has always been about teaching and communication. My twenty years as an educator and my passionate pursuit of literacy and learning, gave me the healthy dose of courage and skills that have led me through a wonderful variety of experiences, including classroom and University teaching, instructional coaching, research, writing, publishing, corporate training, and starting my own business.

Read more about Angela here.

Photo courtesy of  Jenny Downing


My life path has always been about teaching and communication. My twenty years as an educator and my passionate pursuit of literacy and learning, gave me the healthy dose of courage and skills that have led me through a wonderful variety of experiences, including classroom and University teaching, instructional coaching, research, writing, publishing, corporate training, and starting my own business.

  • Paul Brikman

    Thorough and spot on, Angela! Leadership is not about secret sauce. The good news, however, is that by stocking the right ingredients and practicing your craft, anyone can become a master chef! Thank you for this helpful, expansive post, which, as you know, is great advice for leaders at any point along the path.

  • Angela Maiers

    Thanks Paul! So appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas with your community! Looking forward to learning from you all!

  • Al Smith

    Thanks Angela. This is wonderful. I watched your TED talk yesterday and now this awesome article. Along with your “You Matter” platform, you are rockin it, girl. I had the pleasure of being here as a guest last week and writing about “losing the ego …..” Your incredible list above really addresses that point with the first 3 suggestions. Be a Learner, be Teachable and be a Question asker. Wow. I love these. If we could just get leaders, CEO’s, any and all bosses, to apply these 3 things to their job (and life) what a difference that would make.

    Everyone (including leaders) want everyone Else to change. What we need to remind ourselves of (daily) is that the change really does begin with me. I think the HOW acronym goes hand in hand with the first 3 suggestions. HOW ? Be Honest with yourself. (realize and admit you don’t know everything) keep an Open mind (remain teachable) and be Willing to ask questions. Maybe even (Gasp!) ask for help.

    Don’t get me started with CARE. Ha.

    I am saving this post, RT and putting on facebook. Sorry for rambling on, but You got me fired up this morning. Thank you.

    Take CARE.


  • John Spence

    Numero Uno: BE HONEST!!! Tell the truth all the time – be a living example of what you want your followers to be. Love, John

  • Dan Newman

    Love this Angela – Be You? Be the One?

    Always my best!

  • Angela Maiers

    Thank you my friend! Be the One!!! (Someone smart taught me that! )

  • Tia

    Hi Angela,
    I love this post! You have a lot of great suggestions here – many that each one of us could use as a reminder every once in a while. To truly make the best of these though, I believe it is important to Be Reflective. Reflecting on what you do is such an important part of being a leader, a life-long learner and a good person.

    Thanks for writing this post, Angela,

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