Real Leaders

Uniting Mission-Aligned Leaders

By Julie Van Ness

Growing up, I used to hear the saying, “Choose your friends, choose your future,” and I often wonder what life would have been like if I had not followed that sage advice.

I firmly believe that in today’s world — even more than ever — the same mindset has tremendous value in the business world. Whom you align with — and whom you choose not to align with — are equally important decisions with game-changing outcomes that will create a ripple effect throughout your professional and personal life. The journey to find those who are mission-aligned with purpose-driven values, strong ethics, and character can be a daunting challenge.

But one thing is for certain: By uniting and acting together, we become an irresistible force for good.

Through the Real Leaders community, many people have found multiple ways of connecting to elevate their purpose, surrounded by supportive, creative, and dedicated peers. An outstanding example of this purposeful mindset was at the Real Leaders UNITE event in early February 2024. This annual gathering of award-winning impact leaders is one of the few opportunities for mission-aligned leaders to connect and collaborate.

Lessons were learned from highly respected leaders including Stedman Graham, who guided our understanding of identity leadership; Lisa Bodell regarding radical simplification; Shark Tank’s Daymond John on raising capital and the do’s and don’ts of investor pitches; Tamara Loehr discussing building your personal brand to drive growth and impact; Shadi Bakour on the power of collaboration; and Peggy Shell on cultivating impactful teams, among many more.

There were also global high-profile celebrities and business leaders who care about social entrepreneurship, such as Pharrell Williams, who by video shared his words of advice and the latest news about his phenomenal nonprofit organization Black Ambition, which is helping close the opportunity gap for entrepreneurs of color and was the cover story in our Real Leaders Spring 2024 edition.

“Each and every one of you has the power, the will, and the capacity to make a difference in the world in which you live in.”

In a room filled with voluminous wisdom, everyone witnessed a collective spirit to leverage our business model and make the world a better place.

Every one of us has the choice of playing a small, medium, or tremendously large role in progress
— or doing absolutely nothing. I think singer Harry Belafonte nailed it before he passed away
in 2023 when he referred to “the power, will, and the capacity to make a difference,” which is why choosing whom you align with, what events you attend, and what you learn from those experiences truly matters.

Most of us see positive changes occurring within the business community, so let’s push those doors open even wider to include more newcomers, voices, choices, and solutions. There are no boundaries that we can’t collectively advance to create a far better future.

Julie Van Ness, Real Leaders CEO