How to Become a Trusted Leadership Advisor


It’s guest post Monday! This post is written by Nathan Magnuson who is a leadership coach, consultant, and writer.  You can follow him on his leadership blog at or on Twitter. If you would like to have a post featured on my site then click here.

Has anyone ever asked you how to become a better leader?  I remember the first time I was asked.  And it wasn’t by a buddy, it was a dentist who had just bought out her practice and was trying to make it as a business owner as well.  We had been working on some of her challenges together.  I think I was 21 or 22 at the time.  All of a sudden she put me on the spot and everything I thought I knew about leadership started to jumble together.  How do you give a definitive answer when leadership is so broad a topic?

Since then, I’ve come to realize that most people don’t start thinking about leadership until they experience a leadership challenge.  Think about it.  You don’t call your auto mechanic to tell him your car has been running well lately.  You probably don’t call your counselor tell say how good your relationships are going (although I’m sure he or she would love to hear it!).  You seek them out when things aren’t going so well.  It’s usually the same with leadership.

So what can you do when people ask for your leadership input?  Here are the three approaches I take:

1. Make leadership seem easier

Let me first point out that leadership isn’t easy.  It can be extremely tough!  But effective leadership is always easier in the long-run than the alternative.  Poor leadership results in inferior outcomes and bruised followers. Like Truett Cathy says, “it really is easier to succeed than to fail, because when you fail you have to start all over again from a lesser position.” But at the same time, anything worth doing is worth doing wrong… until you can learn to do it right.”

2. Make leadership seem less complicated

Leadership can be incredibly complicated.  It’s a pretty broad subject!  John Maxwell says that “everything rises and falls on leadership”, which can seem pretty daunting.  But you can make it seem less complicated for others by helping them identify the nature of their leadership challenge. When I take my car to the mechanic, I tell him what I’m experiencing and then he helps me diagnose the root issue.  He doesn’t keep me there until I understand everything about how my car works.  (Thank God, because I’d be there forever!)  Usually most of my car is working the way it should.  Neither you nor the ones you advise need to (or should) get a PhD in leadership in order to enjoy leadership success.  Helping others distinguish between what is working well and what is actually the pain point makes leadership challenges much less complicated and easier to address.

3. Make leadership seem more fun

One of the first lessons I’ve learned about leadership is that not everyone gets as excited about it as I do.  But everyone is excited about winning in their respective areas.  And leadership almost always plays a role in success.  You can help leadership seem more fun by helping others win on their own terms. Zig Ziglar, “says that you can have anything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”  When you are able to help others understand how leadership will help them succeed at the things that matter most to them, it will all of a sudden seem a lot more fun.  On top of that, you might be surprised when your not-so-enthusiastic-about-leadership friends start seeking your input.

Question: I realize a list like this could go on forever.  What else is crucial for becoming a trusted leadership advisor?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I agree with you Nathan when you say make Leadership more fun. Most people think that it has to be boring. Leadership is one of the best marketing strategies an individual can have. If you Lead yourself well, you can definitely lead others. Thank you for sharing these great points.

    • I thought it was a brilliant point! I really like your point Lincoln, “Leadership is one of the best marketing strategies an individual can have.” This is such a true statement, especially in today’s economy. One of us might need to write more on this topic:) Thank you for adding to the post.

    • Thanks Lincoln, it’s been interesting to see friends I grew up or graduated with who weren’t that interested in leadership at first start to come around once they grow in their careers and are given more leadership responsibility. Their “holy cow” moments can open the door to great discussions.

  • Thanks for posting, Dan! Great to meet you in San Diego.

    • Your welcome, it was great meeting you too.

  • Floyd

    I know it could be a long list, but my list would have to start with integrity. The foundation of all great things I believe. Nice post. Thanks.

    • I agree Floyd, integrity is vital! Too many lack it today.

    • Great point Floyd, I believe character and integrity are essential foundational aspects of a leader. Thank you for sharing.

    • You’re right, integrity, character, humility, there are tons of traits that would go a long way to being a trusted leadership advisor. “You are the message,” right?

  • I think being engaged in listening. Which goes back to your car. I hate it when I’m trying to tell my mechanic or doctor or whoever why I’m there and what’s wrong and they don’t listen. Instead they start ordering a bunch of tests or doing things that don’t need to be done because they haven’t actually listened.

    Also, your post reminds me of the book, “Love Does” by Bob Goff. In one chapter he talks about how you don’t necessarily have to know all the details of your goal/dream, just do the next step and the one after that. Just DO something instead of sitting on the sidelines watching others DO.

    • TC Avey,

      Great addition, Listening is so important when it comes to showing people you care and value what they say. “Love Does” is on my book list, I can’t wait to read it.

      Thank you for reading, if you have not checked out Nathans blog I encourage you to do so:)

      • I’ll check out his blog. Thanks for connecting me to awesome bloggers.

        Love Does is a really great book plus it’s easy to read. Even my spouse managed to read it- that’s saying something!

    • You nailed it, actually working on a couple posts to that effect. Read “Love Does” twice over the summer!

      • Look forward to reading those posts.

        I just finished reading “Love Does” for the second time myself.

  • Lead from relationship, not from position. As people see you lead from a place of caring, instead of a role or paid position, you are able to lead more effectively and help others develop their skills as well.

    • You’re right, Jason, it’s the people in paid positions I have to follow but the ones outside the position I choose to follow. But either way, I’d prefer to follow someone who cares to have a relationship with me.

  • Garry

    Thanks for the post and the thought povoking pieces on leadership. I would also add, “Make Leadership Real”. Take the mysticism out; take the pedestal posture out; take the lofty attitudes out! Be vulnerable enough to share reality and what it looks like from a leader’s vantage point. Share how you face each challenge and what it means to engage integrity, character and humility in the real moments of leadership!

    • Good stuff Garry. How about this: share your own leadership mistakes – most people will relate more to your mistakes than your success!

  • I think a crucial part of any advisor is to put leadership in its proper perspective. It helps to remind people how important it is, but also how everyone is learning day by day.

    • Great point – reminds me of Mark Miller’s book “Great Leaders Grow.”

      • That’s a great book Nathan. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

  • happiness—but I think that is what you were getting at by making it seem more fun :)

  • Another point to make about being a leadership advisor is that it’s OK not to know the answer right away. Leaders learn every day just like everyone else. It’s OK to come back with the answer at a later time knowing that it’s a better answer than the one given on the spot on a whim.

  • Awesome 3 points! I’d add make seem less-lonely. There are others walking in your shoes and you don’t have to do it alone. Many leaders are willing to walk with other emerging leaders.

  • Joe,

    Your comment was in my spam for some reason, I just found and approved it.

    Great additional point. Leading intentionally and with purpose is essential. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks Dan for approving my ‘spam’ comment :) By the way, you are doing a great job through this leadership blog, Dan!

      • Your welcome. I think most of my comments I make on your site go to your spam as well.

        Thank you. I love writing and sharing about leadership. Thank you for commenting.

  • Thanks Joe – great comment by the way. I think that was John Maxwell’s first point in his new book. I will take a look at your website.

    • Thanks, Nathan. Yes, you are right – that’s the first point in John Maxwell’s new book! I didn’t notice it until you told me :)