I was recently sitting with a group of young minds.  We were talking leadership and one brave little student asked me… “How do I know if I’m leading?  What does it feel like?”

I responded… “Great question, let’s talk about Frogs, Dogs and Unicorns.”


We all know that frogs start off as a tadpole.  They then grow into a tadpole with legs. 
After that, they become a froglet.  Eventually, they become an adult frog. 

That sounds a lot like growing up, doesn’t it?

When we’re babies, we’re kind of like a tadpole.  We’re waiting to grow stronger and walk.  When we get to start walking and moving around, we feel like a tadpole with legs.  Our independence is starting to grow, and we can do some exploring on our own.  We generally enjoy this learning process.

Then there are those awkward moments.  Those moments when we’re starting to feel strong on our feet and our ability to move around and make decisions for ourselves really expands.  We make some good choices and some not-so-good choices. 

We get rewarded sometimes and scolded at times.  There’s lots of learning going on.  We’re learning how to communicate with others and we’re learning a lot about ourselves. 

Being a frog can be a bit awkward.  If you’re a frog, you just kind of keep evolving and jumping around.  Being a human can also be a bit awkward.

It’s a good reminder that leaders aren’t born leaders.  They are constantly growing into who they will become.  Leaders accept that life is full of change and some moments will be awkward as they grow and learn.  Leaders are naturally curious and embrace ongoing learning. 

Leaders keep growing, kind of like a frog.


Ok… so we passed through that frog stage and we learned a bunch.  It was awkward and now we’re moving forward as adults.

We’re moving into what feels like the dog years.  We go on walks, we travel and we explore but life is still kind of holding us by a leash.  We want to spread our wings a bit more and grow further in our independence and experiences.  We love the idea of freedom.

As a dog walks through the park checking its “pee-mails”, it realizes that there’s a much bigger world out there.  We want to meet the other dogs and when we do, some we sniff, some we avoid and some we bark at.  For most of them, we wag our tail.

As leaders we can feel like we’re the big dog sometimes.  We walk proudly and we’re generally good humans.  We do our business and get treats and rewards for doing a good job.  In the back of our minds, we know we’re still in the process of figuring out life and how things work. 

We know the learning never stops.  We recognize that there’s a big world out there with a lot of people in it.  We grow in our emotional intelligence and focus on what matters, kind of like an old dog.


So, after those dog years and all that hunting around for a bone to chew on… you finally find the perfect bone for you.

That’s what the unicorn moment in leadership feels like. 

It’s that moment when you just know that “We Got This!”.  You realize that it’s not about you.  You realize that great leadership is about others and what you can do for them.  Finding that bone as a dog is a lot like finding your purpose as a leader.

You acquire a laser focus on your destination.  Like a unicorn, everything around you is now magical and seems to be lining up to help you reach your destination.  You recognize what is important and what isn’t at a glance. 

Like an arrow pointing out of the top of your head, you know your direction and you soar with confidence.

You know that life will still throw you challenges and obstacles along with opportunities.  You play with no fear as you jump over them, shuffle around them and fly through them with confidence.

Leaders are confident in their unique strengths.  Leaders have put in the practice time.  Leaders have learned a lot and they’re  ready to go forward with confidence.  Leaders have discovered their purpose in life and they’re ready to focus all of their efforts in the pursuit of their vision. 

And… in the process, they strive to create win-wins for all of those around them.

That’s what Great Leadership feels like. 

Who wants to be a Unicorn?

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