Some accomplish it with a pen — mightier-than-any-sword. Some with eloquent oratory.

For some the tool is as simple as an invitation — how may I help you? Or the offer of a cup of cold water

A few speak volumes with the sheer force of example.

Whatever the avenue or methodology, the voice of real leaders encourages conversations — around core ideas, fundamental values, consequential agendas, and aspirational vision.

To be sure, with the right megaphone any voice may be able to distract for a season. Given the resources, a poser can spin, obfuscate, and monopolize messaging.

But storming to the front of a room, grasping the microphone or hovering over a pulpit does not constitute leadership.

The more one must announce credentials the more likely reality will reveal a leadership vacuum.

Real leadership — in a firm, a family, a community or a country — is marked by the presence of inclusion, service, and the pursuit of a higher calling.

Yes…the conversations can be messy and disconcerting; but progress is realized in the honest dialogue and collaborative spirit that is born of shared aspirations.

Over time, real leadership is unmistakable. The authenticity resonates, and inspires us — to see a bigger picture, to dream of what could be, to build bridges, and to dispense with our smaller selves, and engage in consequential adventure. And in our gut, we know it when we hear it.