What Makes a Great Leader?


Leadership is as evergreen a topic as it gets! During a bout of team coaching visits recently, I created a compendium of qualities to start off our conversations as a team. Here is the list to help inspire you and your team: 


Belief: A great leader leads with strong conviction. Imagine Christ. Imagine Gandhi. Unless & until the leader has a very strong self-belief, how can he even preach to his followers?

Decisiveness: A hallmark of a great leader is the ability to take decisions. Imagine the myriad thoughts which would have been swirling around in Vasco de Gama’s mind when he set off on a voyage into the unknown from the “end of land”! A leader weighs his pros & cons, and decides.

Empathy: Empathy is often misconstrued as softness. It is simply about having a heart. Some of the best leaders I have worked with have had a soft interior beneath their tough exterior. They will push you to the hilt professionally but are the first ones to step in to help you when you are in trouble or need assistance on the personal front.

Bonding: Great leaders bond with their teams. They know their team members as human beings. They connect deeply at an emotional level with their teams. Imagine the great generals of yesteryears leading their teams into battle! 

Simplicity: Often under-rated, simplicity is a true blue hallmark of great leaders. They have the ability to distil simple principles from complex situations, and clearly show the path to their followers.

Larger than themselves: Truly great leaders serve a cause. They are not blind followers of the “I, me, myself” syndrome. Imagine Mandela. They genuinely stand for a principle and raison d’etre which makes them iconic.

Command, not demand: Great leaders command the respect of their teams, they do not need to demand it. They achieve this by adding value to their team, not by forcing them.

Humility: Most of us associate great leadership with bravado & swagger. Not necessarily. Most of the truly great leaders are humble at their core, simply because they see themselves as servants of the people they service, and not as their masters!

Courage: Great leaders display courage in full measure. Unafraid to speak their mind, they are bold in mind & strong on action. Think Lincoln.

Communication: Great leaders are excellent communicators. They have the ability to rouse entire audiences through their conviction & self-belief. Words make our world as they say, and this is particularly true in the context of great leaders.

Ability to adapt: Great leaders are dynamic – they can quickly adapt to changing conditions. They realize that their goal is constant but the way to get there is flexible.

Optimism: This is a stand-out trait of great leaders. They are optimistic to the core, especially during their darkest hours. They realize that a positive mind can overcome any issue.

Integrity: Unfortunately, in recent times, many of our “leaders” have displayed feet of clay. The truly great ones are role models of integrity.

Anticipation: Great leaders have an amazing ability to anticipate trends, and push the envelope accordingly. They see trends & patterns well before others even just assimilate all the information.

Leadership in Action: Just a couple of examples:

  • Chesley Sullenberger had been a commercial pilot for 29 years before a plane he was flying out of LaGuardia Airport struck a flock of geese, damaging the plane's engines. He turned the aircraft around and ditched it in the Hudson River, saving all 155 people aboard and becoming a national hero and instant celebrity. Can you figure out how many of the above qualities he displayed?
  • “I will come again and conquer you because as a mountain you can’t grow, but as a human I can.” – Sir Edmund Hillary. No wonder he became one of the first two men to climb the highest mountain in the world!


Go out there and express yourself. There’s no point in going to the grave with your music still intact!


The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Connecting with Executive Search

As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to:
- Learn about executive search and how it differs from other forms of recruiting
- Discover the best ways to connect with executive search professionals
- Understand how the search process works
- Implement strategies that will help you become visible to the search community
- And more!

Download Now!

About the author

KV Dipu's picture

KV Dipu is a people-centric CXO-level corporate executive, from India, with extensive experience in financial services. With several certifications & accolades to his credit (certified lean six sigma black belt, certified ezinearticles expert author and an expert on transformation at selfgrowth.com), he applies his experience to writing and mentoring (he is an IvyExec Network Mentor). Please connect with Dipu on LinkedIn or contact him at kvdipu@gmail.com.

Become a BlueSteps Executive Guest Writer >>

Other posts by this author

Share your thoughts

Stay Connected