What makes a leader?


True leadership is very difficult unless those making the decisions are wholly committed to their goals.

Leaders also need passion and intelligence to tap into behaviours that will command respect and get other people engaged; the best bosses recognise that bringing new faces into the equation is crucial to strategy that will enable sound decision-making.

The following factors play a fundamental role in this leadership process as it develops:


In their drive towards the ideal future, the second-rate leader forgets about the past; vision is as much about having a dream as it is about adhering to the core values from which it grew.

Leaders need to be able to communicate their vision to potential team-players around them. In practice, this could be achieved through diagrams, images or inspiring photography. A picture, after all, paints a thousand words.

Alternatively, bosses could ask others for their description about what the group vision should be and how it can be achieved; their engagement may throw new light on your own methods. Ultimately you, the person in charge, will be able to see if others are on the same page as you.

Having flexibility is essential when considering your vision, so re-evaluate the direction in which you are headed occasionally to accommodate for changing fashions, tastes and perspectives. It is important to be recognised as a boss who is willing to listen to the views of others, willing to make compromises, if others are to buy into your dream.


An unseen fire, passion’s heat and energy are unmistakable to those in proximity. In a world where jargon and big talk are two-a-penny, real passion cuts through the puff to attract genuine belief and commitment.

Beyond transmitting that energy to those around them, extraordinary leaders do not get carried away but are able to galvanise passion with intelligence and logic to plot a reasoned pathway forwards.

The heart that put you on your path can so easily get left behind in the daily facts and figures. Remember that  small pep talks to relay simple information are opportunities to reinforce how day-to-day actions relate to founding visions and values, and the passion that has nourished them from the start.

Great decision-making

We all strive to make the right decisions but we are often guilty of not making a choice for fear of committing a mistake. However, mistakes represent progress and are an inherent part of success; they bestow knowledge, broaden experience and nurture wisdom; they are the value of every journey.

So much of good-decision making is built upon factors that are within our control, and leaders need to harness these to optimise the decision-making environment. Are all voices being listened to? Are there timelines for implementation, processes and strategy? Are all avenues of information being explored? Are measures for evaluation in place?

Some leaders make rash decisions without contingency and without thinking about the bigger picture. Even when effective, the maverick approach can undermine authority quickly if decisions are made without drawing upon all available resources.

Be a team builder

Building a great team begins at trusting selected individuals to share the workload. Beyond expecting good decisions to be made, this trust extends to believing in another worker’s character and knowing that they’ll evaluate and redirect themselves should a mistake be made.

Good bosses empower those around them with responsibility, avoiding the temptation to micro-manage. Ultimately the success of an organisation’s effort will depend on the strength of the team – something that the best leaders realise sooner rather than later.

If processes start to fail, the strong manager is the first to take responsibility; falling at a hurdle is the ideal opportunity to be the boss who sees the good in every situation.


Your character’s strengths and limitations will play a key role in your style as a leader, and the most successful leaders recognise that weaknesses are opportunities for improvement.

Bringing in others with key skills in key areas is a great way to build team strength while improving overall chances of reaching a common goal.

Being aware of your skills as a leader and of the role they play is crucial to forming your brand of leadership, which you can find out for yourself through models such as the Myers-Briggs assessment and the 360-Degree Feedback model.

No leaders come fully equipped with the traits they need to succeed at the highest level. However, the best among us usually have a central belief or one particular skill-set that enables development and opens doors to growth.

Key underpinning factors include a desire to lead and the ability to convert a clear vision into a message that others can buy into.

When that vision is spoken from the heart, it will create enthusiasm that will make potential team-members jump on board with what you’re doing. From that point on, it’s a case of keeping your ears and eyes open and taking every opportunity to learn on your journey to becoming a great leader with a winning team!

LeadershipMartin Head