Are you a tour guide or a travel agent?

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We live in a fake it until you make it, a world where perception is everything. A world full of talkers than doers, we confuse motion for movement, a world where an entrepreneurial coach does not have or have never started a business, a lifeguard who has never swam, a Netflix-binging father imploring his son to read. Leadership is a verb, not a noun; leaders are doers. They say, “Do as I do, not do as I say.” They lead from the front; they are at the forefront of the battles, challenges and tribulations; they make the tough decisions and show courage during trials. They get their hands dirtied and noses bloodied.

One of my favourite lessons learned from listening to and reading books by author and leadership expert John C. Maxwell is the analogy of being a tour guide instead of a travel agent. He writes about the concept in a couple of his books.

“Nothing is more confusing than people who give good advice but set a bad example.” – Norman Vincent Peale

In The 21 Irrefutable laws of leadership, John Maxwell observed:

“ Too many leaders are like bad travel agents. They send people places they have never been. Instead, they should be more like tour guides, taking people places they have gone and sharing the wisdom of their own experiences.”


In his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership, author John C. Maxwell noted that leaders lead from the front. He writes:

“Leaders, by definition, are out front. They take new territory and others follow them. Great leaders don’t merely send others out. They lead the charge. They’re more like tour guides than travel agents. They see opportunities, prepare to move forward, and then say, “Follow me.” When you see someone who is able to see opportunities and is willing to take good risks, pay attention. You may be looking at a leader.”


In Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading, John Maxwell writes

“There are a lot of people in the world who are willing to give advice on things they’ve never experienced. They are like bad travel agents: they sell you an expensive ticket and say, “I hope you enjoy the trip.” Then you never see them again. In contrast, good leaders are like tour guides. They know the territory because they’ve made the trip before, and they do what they can to make the trip enjoyable and successful for everybody.”

A leader’s credibility begins with personal success. It ends with helping others achieve personal success. To gain credibility, you must consistently demonstrate three things:

  1. Initiative: You have to get up to go up.
  2. Sacrifice: You have to give up to go up.
  3. Maturity: You have to grow up to go up.

“If you show the way, people will want to follow you. The higher you go, the greater the number of people who will be willing to travel with you.”

Leadership is a Verb

Leaders are dealers in hope, they lead from the front, they believe in showing not telling.

Leadership builds up, not down.
It is active, not passive,
Leadership brings a smile, not a frown.

Leadership gives credit, not blame.
It casts vision, not doubt,
Leadership drives change, not same.

 Leadership adds value, not clutter.
It sees causes, not symptoms,
Leadership ignites passion, not a sputter.

Leadership helps you swim, not drown.
It is inspiring, not expiring,
Leadership is a verb, not a noun.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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