The Journey of Finding the Authentic Leader

Throughout my life I have always been an overachiever. The desire to be the best has always been part of my DNA, even from a young age. If you are like me, you are constantly searching within yourself in order to reach for self-actualization, the top of the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Recently I had an epiphany, or realization, that my idea of self-actualization continually changes, so I questioned myself as to whether or not I could indeed reach this mythical notion of fulfillment in the person I see myself becoming. It was during this epiphany that I questioned myself and asked, “maybe it is more about the journey rather than reaching for self actualization?” This reminds me of Aloe Blacc’s song, "Don’t Wake Me Up".






Feeling my way through the darkness

Guided by a beating heart

I can't tell where the journey will end

But I know where to start

They tell me I'm too young to understand

They say I'm caught up in a dream

Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes

Well that's fine by me


So wake me up when it's all over

When I'm wiser and I'm older

All this time I was finding myself

And I didn't know I was lost


My journey began on a farm in northwest Iowa. Growing up on a farm introduced me to many opportunities to develop leadership skills whether it was taking care of my 4-H sheep and cattle or the physical labor such as baling hay. This work ethic was instilled in me and is something I credit to getting me to where I am today, but I was constrained to fully living my authentic self due to my own internal homophobia. After finally coming out as a gay man in 2006, I felt released and finally found my voice. In my recent reflections, I’ve also discerned whether or not it was the internalized homophobia that motivated me to achieve in order to overcompensate for something that society had told me was wrong.  Whether or not this is true, it has definitely contributed to my journey of finding my true authentic self as a leader in my community.


Our journey is never-ending, which probably means the self-actualization is never-ending or continually changing.  I do not look upon this as discouraging or disheartening but as something to continue to live for as my journey as a leader continues. Setting goals helps continue our path toward self-actualization, but we must be willing to take risks and live our true authentic selves. Until then, continue your journey of finding out who you are.



More about Daniel:



Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel has been the Director of Education and Leadership at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland since February of 2014. Daniel is an Adjunct Instructor at Iowa Central Community and a Respite Provider through Lutheran Services in Iowa. Prior to his work at PPHeartland, Daniel was the Regional Director of Proteus for six years providing program administration. Daniel has extensive non-profit experience working with the LGBTQ community, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, individuals with disabilities, and other marginalized communities. 


Daniel is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Leadership from Creighton University, with an expected graduation date of late spring 2015. He has a Master of Arts in Health Studies from the University of Alabama, Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts with Sociology and Psychology minors from Grand View University, and Associate of Arts from Iowa Central Community College. Daniel also is a Certified Health Education Specialist. In 2015, Daniel was selected as one of the Des Moines Business Record's class of Forty Under 40 and in 2012 was awarded the Karen Packer Spirit of Collaboration Award at the Iowa Cancer Summit.