6 Ways Great Leaders Are Different

For more than a decade, I’ve used the metaphor of an iceberg to talk about leadership – the 10% above the water line represents the skills of the leader and the 90% below represents their characterThe Secret, a book I co-authored with Ken Blanchard, outlines what we believe great leaders do – the skills part of the picture. However, the question I have gotten consistently ever since we started using the iceberg illustration is this, “What are the character traits of great leaders?”

On more than one occasion, I’ve answered the character question by asking, “What are the traits you are trying to instill in your children?” Typical responses would include: dependability, honesty, integrity and hard work. I would say, “That’s what leaders need.”  Now that I look back, my answer was incorrect. Dependability, honesty, integrity and hard work are needed by EVERY employee – including the leaders; therefore, none of these are distinctives of leaders.
So the first question I’ve been wrestling with is: Are leaders really different? My answer is yes. Clearly, we all want our leaders to be dependable, honest, show integrity and be hard working, but our organizations demand more from leaders. Therefore, my next question was – How are leaders different?
Here’s a short list of six attributes that I believe you’re more likely to see in leaders than non-leaders. It’s not an exhaustive list, but most of the great leaders I’ve known personally, and those I’ve studied, have demonstrated some measure of the following traits.
Optimism – Men and women in leadership are generally optimistic. They see a preferred future and can envision a path to make it a reality – despite the obstacles.
Judgment – The best leaders have the ability to make good decisions – even when the data is incomplete.
Ownership – Great leaders are willing to take responsibility for their actions, the actions of those they lead and the outcomes of their efforts.
Initiative – Good leaders are known for being proactive. They are willing to act – and often, they are the first to act.
Courage – To lead well requires bold decisions, decisive decisions – to stand alone if necessary. To lead well requires courage.
Servanthood – The best leaders are motivated by a heart to serve. They want to serve the organization, their people, their customers and all their stakeholders.
What character traits do you see in the best leaders?

Leave a comment



Nathan Magnuson

9 years ago

This correlates well with what we are seeing right now in the intelligence community with organizations needing employees who have the courage to accept the responsibility to make risky decisions at their level rather than pushing them up the chain for someone else to deal with.

Richard Burkey

9 years ago

Great list, I’d add Commitment as a character trait. The best leaders go the distance. Times might be up or down, but they keep committed to the vision and to the needs of others. The commitment the best leaders have inspire others to follow.

mark

9 years ago

Thank you Richard! I agree – Commitment is huge. Love to hear other ideas from you as you think about this.

Sammy

9 years ago

What’s the polite word for being stubborn? When you have a good idea people will get behind you. When you have a great idea people will say no…they will discourage you from pursing this. And sure, some of the nos are good common business sense. Most are not, prompted out of fear or a foolish adversity to risk.
No has no value, no is status quo. Yes is where possibilities begin, where inspiration can take root and things can begin to change.
Collecting nos is the stupidest part of being in business but when you find that one guy who says YES things start to happen.

mark

9 years ago

Thank you Sammy! I agree – I don’t like No. I saw an executive leadership model a few year ago that included, “Never Accept Limits.” I love that! To me means, “We’ll have to find another way.” Keep challenging the status quo!

6 Ways Leaders Are Different | FranklinPiens.be

9 years ago

[…] Here’s a short list of six attributes that I believe you’re more likely to see in leaders than non-leaders. This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Franklin. Bookmark the permalink. […]

Fredrik

9 years ago

Courage to take initiative!

mark

9 years ago

Absolutely! Courage to take initiative is what we all need. Thanks for your comment. Please share other thoughts on this, or any other leadership issues. We’re all in this together!

6 Ways Leaders Are Different « Peel Leadership Centre

9 years ago

[…] Click here to read full post Rate this: Share this:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

How are leaders different? | CurryStew

9 years ago

[…] is a great repost of an article I read by Mark Miller who has a great blog called “Great Leaders Serve”, you should really check out. Most leaders who already think they’re great won’t bother […]

bill holston

7 years ago

I have the Heart Of Leadership taped to my wall by my computer. It adds ‘hunger for wisdom.’ My daily prayer is that I would lead with: Integrity, Wisdom, Skill, Boldness and Humility. I think you are right most of this is what everyone should have. I think your point about boldness (or perhaps courage) is the thing that sets leaders apart.

mark

7 years ago

Thanks, Bill. I’m glad you found the book helpful. Regarding courage, I believe it is the catalyst for leadership. Without it, it is impossible to lead well. Guard your heart! Mark

Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved