What Makes a Great Leader?

The first list is from Warren Bennis, a professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California and the best selling author of “On Becoming a Leader” and many other books on leadership.

Warren Bennis’s Ingredients for Leadership

Concept What it means
Guiding Vision You have a clear concept of what you want to do —
professionally and personally
Passion You love what you do
Integrity You know your strengths and weaknesses and are true to your principles
Trust You have earned people’s trust
Daring You are willing to take risks
Curiosity You want to keep learning

Our experience is that the strongest attribute that a leader can have is a clearly defined vision and the ability to communicate that vision and get your staff and community to be willing followers and allies to you in achieving that vision.

Source: Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader.

Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Sir Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King all had the ability to communicate their personal vision.

Martin Luther Kings famous speech expressing his dream is well worth repeating.

1. “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
2. I have a dream that one day the nation will rise up and live out of the true meaning of its creed: ” We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
3. I have a dream that one day on the red hill of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
4. I have a dream that one day even the State of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering in the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
5. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

How many of us could articulate our vision to our staff as effectively as that?

Now we will visit Stephen Covey’s list of Leadership characteristics.

Stephen Covey’s Eight Discernable Characteristics of Principal-Centered Leadership

Characteristics What it means
Continual learning Seek training, take classes, listen, ask questions
Service orientation See life as a mission, not as a career
Radiate positive energy You are cheerful, pleasant, happy, optimistic, positive, enthusiastic and hopeful
Believe in other people Don’t label, don’t overreact, don’t carry grudges or prejudge people
Synergize You are productive and “smart working”
Lead a balanced life You are temperate, wise, sensible, physically active, socially active, and well read
See life as an adventure You are courageous, unflappable, totally flexible explorer
Balance your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual characteristics You engage in exercise, reading, writing, creative problem solving, you pray, meditate, and watch what you eat


Source: “Principle-Centered Leadership” by Stephen Covey.

Now you can rate yourself against the issues that have been highlighted above. As in all these things there are no definitive right or wrong attributes that fit great leaders.

Peter Drucker, known as a great respected authority on leadership and still active in coaching and teaching the subject in his nineties stated that there are no set fundamental traits for great leaders.

We are all individuals, however in my opinion the key issues are to be able to “command and not demand respect” and to be able to listen effectively and have empathy for the other persons point of view. Its all about relationships.

Article written by Bill Winter, Mindshop Facilitator

Search this website