Are You a Great Leader? 5 Common Traits of Exceptional Leadership

Friday 18th December, 2015

Are you a great leader? If I directed the question at you, could you answer yes honestly? My guess is that most people reading this blog have sat up a little straighter and said to themselves, 'I am a good leader.'

Good and great, both words start with the letter G, but as we all know, there is a massive difference between the two. Good is reasonably common and great is rare. There is after all only one Luke Hodge in the AFL.

placeholderWhat makes a great leader great? This question in its various forms is one of the most common we encounter when speaking with our clients. The answers are diverse, subjective and situational. They most often include words and phrases like: visionary, strategic, strong communication skills, able to incite confidence, and takes their team along on the ride.

Distilling from what our clients most often look for in their executive leadership, here is my take on the 5 key qualities and characteristics that define a great leader: 

1. Flexibility: A great leader is one that can adapt, quickly. Flexibility is the key to excelling in our fast-moving, complex and ever changing world. Great leaders are progressive. They don’t have one static world view, they don’t fight change, they respond to disruption, market gaps, and innovation opportunities. Great leaders flex their styles to suit the circumstance. 

2. Vision and goal setting: A team depends on its leader to tell them where they are going, why they are going there and how they’re going to get there. People are motivated by great vision – a goal they themselves didn’t imagine, but can easily buy into. A great leader sets the bar high and breaks the journey there into discreet, reachable milestones.

3. Communication: Communication skills are required to progress through every level of business, but great leaders must possess outstanding ability to deliver messages; succinctly, clearly, engagingly, believably and even charismatically. I have two words for you: Malcolm Turnbull. Irrespective of what you think of his politics, the guy can communicate!

4. Motivation: Inspiring and motivating others under any circumstances is the mark of an exceptionally effective leader. Truly knowing your people and understanding the ways to bring out their best whatever the challenge separates the good leaders from the great ones. Inspiring people to exceed their capability and teams to lift beyond anyone’s expectations is what defines 'motivation'. Think Francois Pienaar doing the near impossible and leading the South African rugby team to World Cup glory in 1995. Now that was great leadership.

5.Team building: Creating strong, cohesive teams that work well together is another trait of a great leader. The opposite is also true: if a team is weak and dysfunctional, it is generally a failure in leadership. Please note: this rule applies equally to inherited teams. Irrespective of what you inherited, after six to nine months, dysfunctional points back to you. 

So are you a great leader? Not quite, but you want to get there? Development is a blog for another day.


To find out more about how Evolve can help assess whether you have great internal leadership, please contact us.

Ricky Davison is a Client Services Director at Evolve Intelligence.