Five Attributes of a Great Leader


The most effective leaders aren’t just the figure-heads of winning teams, they create the culture that inspires others to share and drive towards success.  

This has far reaching implications when it comes to behaviours of leadership, many of which are common among those who are truly great at bringing people together to achieve the seemingly impossible.

Below we consider some of those key skills and how they translate into actions that make a real difference.

Never give up

The best leaders do not succeed by chance, rather their achievements are down to endless hard work, most of which goes thanklessly unseen. Many of those who fail aren’t willing to emotionally budget for ‘failure’, without acknowledging that mistakes and slip-ups form the fabric of true victory.

Wherever they may be in their careers, leaders harbour resilience and keep moving forward come rain or shine. Driven and single-minded, goals are chased despite negative voices and with no guarantees that sacrifices will pay off.

In the words of former prime minister Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts”.

Stay true to your beliefs

The best leaders begin with a vision of success that holds true until success is achieved, and it is this belief that fully empowers followers to have faith in a leader’s direction.

Personal conviction has played a huge roll in Richard Branson’s success: “A passionate belief in your business and personal objectives can make all the difference between success and failure.

“If you aren’t proud of what you’re doing, why should anybody else be?” the Virgin boss says.

Choose the right people for the job

Great leaders know they can’t do everything themselves; at some point responsibility must be delegated to strong performers who must then be trusted and enabled to carry out a good job.

Sir Clive Woodward coached the England rugby team during the Rugby World Cup 2003. Understanding that great teams are made up of great individuals, Woodward appointed Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave as a motivational coach.

Beyond inspiring beyond measure, Redgrave worked with the England players on an individual basis, enabling each man to be the best within their role.

The result? England overcame Australia in Sydney to claim their first Rugby World Cup title.

Lead by example

Rhetoric and direction are both very well, but the best way to get others to work hard is to work harder. By demonstrating the passion that you want to instil in those around you, you enable other virtues that go hand-in-hand with leadership.

Famous adventurer and former SAS member, Bear Grylls was once overcome by thirst during a desert-based operation. Bear’s sergeant had a capful of water which he gave to Bear despite suffering equally from exhaustion and dehydration.

“I've never forgotten that act of kindness. It was the kindness, more than the water itself, that kept me going. From that point on I'd have yomped to the ends of the earth for that man,” the survival expert remembers.

A moment’s consideration taught a motivational lesson that would last a lifetime.

Love what you do

Beyond pushing yourself to turn your dreams into reality, what do you need to do to be happy in your work?

Richard Branson claims his net worth wouldn’t mean a thing if enjoyment wasn’t a part of his job, and considers personal happiness to be an integral part of success.

This may mean surrounding yourself by the people you love, or taking enough time out of your work to play sport. Making space to enjoy life will have positive effects on your ability to work, as recreation promotes creativity. Ultimately, others want to follow people who know how to relax and have fun.

Many of us have leadership attributes inherent within us, but few can claim to be the complete package. Those who succeed most when in command always have their ears and eyes open, aware that every voice is worth listening to before decisions can be taken.

Reaching out and drawing knowledge from all sources is every bit as important as drive and self-confidence. This balancing act between humility and confidence defines the conscious endeavour of great leaders in their ongoing mission to be the best they can be.

LeadershipMartin Head