Have you ever noticed that there are some people and leaders who stand out from others in a positive way? They seem to operate on a different, higher plane.

It isn’t always easy to put your finger on what makes them different, but for whatever reason, they seem exceptionally productive, overly generous, and an overall positive influence on those they encounter.

Is it that some people are born like this?

I do not think so.

This thinking has led me to ask the question: “What has happened in these individuals’ lives that has caused them to be so outstanding?”

Perhaps one simple and summarizing answer is: they have “transformed.”

What does it mean to transform?

Something that we humans have in common is that we are biologically designed to survive. Part of this means that we are naturally self-focused and self-interested. We want what is best for us. We want to look good, be right, be in control, avoid problems, get ahead, etc.

This is the normal, conventional way most people operate.

When we transform, we no longer are driven by a self-focused desire to “survive.” Instead, we have intentionally chosen to be driven by a desire to create greatness for others.

The difference is quite visual.

Those driven by a desire to survive are in self-protection mode. They are inclined to hunker down in their cave.

Those driven by a desire to create greatness for others are inventers, explorers, and developers. They are willing to venture into the unknown in an effort to make life better for others.

Have you transformed?

This question is tricky, because I think that to a certain degree, everyone is inclined to answer, “yes,” as we have all transformed to a certain degree.

But, the reality is that there are relatively few people who have truly transformed from being self-focused to being greatness creators.

Because it is difficult to assess the degree we have transformed, I have put together some signs or signals designed to help people identify whether or not they have transformed from “Self-Protectors” to “Greatness Creators.”

Signs one has transformed into a “Greatness Creator”

Greatness Creators:

  • Have a clear authentic higher purpose, a noble cause, that allows them to focus on something bigger than themselves
  • Have clear goals, next steps, and objectives related to bettering the lives of others
  • Demonstrate a willingness to self-sacrifice for one’s authentic higher purpose
  • Have enhanced self-awareness
  • Are inclusive and empathetic
  • Feel able to change and improve their circumstances
  • Imagine a brighter future and are intentional about creating it
  • Feel empowered to make a difference
  • Are willing to persist in the face of challenges and setbacks
  • Feel ignited

One thing you will notice is that they have a meaningful “why” that propels them beyond being a Self-Protector.

Signs one has not transformed into a Greatness Creator


  • Are focused on looking good
  • Need to be right
  • Need to be in control
  • Feel powerless to change circumstances and are willing to settle for the status quo
  • Are more focused on dealing with problems (putting out fires) than thinking about the future
  • Are unwilling to persist in the face of challenges and setbacks
  • Lack fire and passion for their primary responsibilities

Important Caveat

One of the weaknesses associated with lists like this is that they often get interpreted as “boxes” that we need to check off.

Transformation is not about, and cannot be about, checking the boxes. Transformation is not about doing, it is about becoming.

Perhaps the best signal that someone has “transformed” is that:

  • They are a Greatness Creator, yet believe they have much to do in terms of personal transformation
  • They look forward to enhanced transformation
  • They are continually seeking to transform through deep learning

How do we transform?

  • We need to recognize that transformation is not a one-time thing.
  • Transformation requires that we have a mindset that we are flexible, transformable, and eager to change how we see the world.
  • I am reading a book, entitled “The Economics of a Higher Purpose,” by Robert Quinn and Anjan Thakor (I highly recommend it!), and they suggest that one of two things generally need to happen for one to transform: go through a crisis or engage in deep learning. I think deep learning is preferred as it is more proactive and intentional about one’s transformation.

  • Develop an authentic purpose out of a crisis or deep learning that is focused on creating greatness for others

“We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
-Oprah Winfrey