In most leadership texts this is often discussed under the headings of openness or transparency or being vulnerable. Being real however is like the story of the velveteen rabbit, where being real takes a long time to build and it is not easy for leaders who have sharp edges or break easily.

Our minds

Maria Popova elegantly described it this way:

“It is already disorienting enough to accept that our attention only absorbs a fraction of the events and phenomena unfolding within and around us at any given moment. Now consider that our memory only retains a fraction of what we have attended to in moments past. In the act of recollection, we take these fragments of fragments and try to reconstruct from them a totality of a remembered reality, playing out in the theater of the mind — a stage on which, as neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has observed in his landmark work on consciousness, we often “use our minds not to discover facts, but to hide them.

We do this on the personal level — out of such selective memory and by such exquisite exclusion, we compose the narrative that is the psychological pillar of our identity.”


Realness is human genuineness; unapologetic, humble, being yourself. Jim Collins of Good to Great fame, labelled this as ‘Level 5 Leadership’.

We become real by being aware of our sharp edges and breakage points.  we learn how to become comfortable with being smoothed out and  appreciating the uniqueness of some of our broken bits. We accept ourselves, and others, as they are.

As one 10-year-old put it:

‘Because adults know so much about what is real and what isn’t, they have less imagination about the possibilities.’

Being a real person is the only way to become a real leader. For some more ideas about being real see, Looking Up, Looking In

I would appreciate it if you would like to email me your experiences of real leadership.