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Leadership Trends

Approximately one in three Canadians volunteer their time to not-for-profit organizations. This is equivalent to over one billion hours every year or, stated another way, it is the equivalent of over 500,000 full-time jobs.

September 29, 2009  By Canadian Massage Therapy Alliance (CMTA)

Approximately one in three Canadians volunteer their time to not-for-profit organizations. This is equivalent to over one billion hours every year or, stated another way, it is the equivalent of over 500,000 full-time jobs1.

Many volunteers play a leadership role within their organization. Others count on effective leaders to ensure that the time and talent of their contribution is valuable in achieving the goals of the organization.

The theme of this issue of Massage Therapy Canada is on “Trends.” Given the number of massage therapists across Canada who are volunteering in a variety of ways to further the profession, we will focus on leadership trends. Understanding these trends can assist us, not only in our work for the profession, but in our practice and personal initiatives as well.

Throughout history there are examples of great leaders. Recently a great deal of research and thought has gone into determining what it is that makes a person a great leader. So much has been invested that there are thousands of books and thousands of experts on the subject of leadership. The growing literature does suggest that, although some people seem to be “born” leaders, leadership skills can be learned and effective leaders are not great as a result of genetics. Most of us act in a leadership role some of the time, whether at work, at play, or at home. Here, we will focus on just a few insights into leadership.


Know yourself – the need for personal reflection
We were promised more relaxation time. Technology was going to free us from long working hours and endless paper. In fact, we are working more hours, trying to keep pace with change and respond to all issues in the time it takes to send an e-mail. As a result, we have no time to think – no time to reflect – only time to react.

This may be the biggest threat we face to effective leadership. In order to influence others, we must have a strong sense of “self” and an understanding of how our personality traits and styles are perceived by others. We must take time for personal reflection.

Leaders are often not aware of the signals they send. Gaining insight into your personality and style through
formal testing, conversations with people close to you, and reading is an investment. In order to inspire others, leaders must be able to articulate their vision in a way that can “capture the hearts” of others.

In an article entitled Goal Setting: A Five-Step Approach to Behavior Change2, the author talks about superordinate goals and appealing to the “hearts” of people.

When England was nearing defeat, Winston Churchill appealed to the “heart” of the English people: “A thousand years from now, when people turn back the pages of history they will read, this was indeed England’s finest hour.” He also said, “never have so few done so much for so many.” Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” is another example. Walt Disney envisioned “Learning through entertainment” and Pierre Trudeau set the superordinate goal of “the just society.”

Somewhere amid the e-mails, voice mails, mountains of paper and competing priorities every day, we must carve out the time to reflect on our visions, passions, goals and personal values or we risk losing the opportunity to become the leaders we could be.

Trust in others – the need for great relationships
Leaders lead. By definition, this involves other people, and it involves relationships. Margaret J. Wheatley, author of Turning to One Another3, states that “There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about. Technology and the instant access to information has changed the way we think and act. 

Traditional borders are gone and we must start new conversations, with new individuals and groups if we are going to lead organizations of the future.

We must be able to transform chaos and information into knowledge and we must make decisions based on our values and beliefs.

The speed with which decisions will have to be made is not comfortable. The enormous changes we must respond to are not comforting. However, this is the nature of our world and the work of our leaders. It is also the reason for strong teams. “A team will out-perform a group of individuals every time.”4

Respect – not popularity
In the book The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, he states “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off” – “Leadership can’t be a popularity contest.

Trying not to offend anyone, or trying to get everyone to like you, will set you on the road to mediocrity. Why? Because leaders who are afraid to make people angry are likely to waver and procrastinate when it comes time to make tough choices. Leaders who care more about being liked than being effective are unlikely to confront the people who need confronting.”5

Leaders must model commitment to the goals of the organization. If a leader acts with integrity and builds relationships that reflect a belief in integrity, s/he will create the conditions that will allow change to happen.

Not all change will be universally accepted – not all people will agree or want change. However, an organization that cannot change because the leader is paralyzed by indecision is unsustainable. Leadership requires courage and is not always a popular position.

Never give up – execution
We have spoken about the “heart.” Three questions that capture the emotion of the organization are:

  • Why do we exist as a unit?
  • Who would miss us if we were gone?
  • What is our primary source of discontent?

These questions can lead to a superordinate goal.

Once the goal is clear. The leader must focus on execution. Again, taking from lessons learned, Colin Powell states “Execution is the key. Do not articulate a vision or a mission unless you are prepared to implement it with overwhelming strength. Stay cool under fire, think big, act fast, and go for the big win.”6

The need for great leadership has never been more important. We all play a leadership role in some part of our lives. George Carlin, known best for his comedy, wrote profoundly about our times. This is an excerpt.

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.  We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness … Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”


  1. The Role of Volunteers in Non-Profit Organizations; J. Shand, K. Thacker. Canadian Society of Association Executives, 2002
  2. Goal-Setting: A Five-Step Approach to Behavior Change. G.P. Latham. Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 32, no.3, pp. 309-318, 2003
  3. Turning to One Another, Margaret J. Wheatley. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002
  4. The Corporate Coach; J.B. Miller. St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1993. p49
  5. The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell; O Harari. McGraw Hill, 2002. p18
  6. The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell; O Harari. McGraw Hill, 2002. p123

Article provided by the Canadian Massage Therapy Alliance (CMTA).

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