What Does It Take To Be a Great Leader?

Being a great leader is something that will mean different things to different groups but generally speaking, great leaders will have some traits in common. There are some leaders who are particularly great orators, some who are great visionaries, and while there are many more traits that help leaders be successful, there are a few traits that help leaders be successful.

Purpose

In every management or leadership class/book you get your hands on, they will mention having a purpose as being critically important and there is a good reason- purpose is important. Purpose is why you get up every day, what you are called to do. Passion is what keeps you going, it is what motivates you, and ultimately, it is critically important to your happiness in your job.

Purpose is the why. To be a great leader, your purpose is important to help inspire your team. From Steve Jobs saying that money didn’t matter, what got him up in the morning was being able to go to bed and say his company did something wonderful. Our purpose allows us to be authentic when we engage those around us and to do so deeply. Purpose is a big part of what makes a great leader truly great.

 

Passion

Another important part of being a great leader is passion. Thinking of great leaders in today’s world, you can see their passion as clear as day. Passion is what is going to build the grit, what is going to help push their growth  I was at an event on Friday speaking with someone who was telling me why they love their job. They certainly had plenty of amazing things to say about the company’s culture, their coworkers, and all the fun things that happen around the office, the reason she still loves her job after four years is that she is incredibly passionate about the work they do.

As a quick aside, I know passion and purpose can sound remarkably similar and I think Jessica Derby at Pick The Brain summed it up well:

If you wanted to start a campfire with passion and purpose, you’d start with a foundation of wood (your purpose), and start the flame with a match (your passion). You needed both for that fire to start. If the flame went out, you would just re-ignite it with another match (more passion), but if you didn’t build up a good foundation of wood (purpose), your passion would quickly burn itself out on it’s own. The two go hand-in-hand.

Passion (in conjunction with purpose) is critical not only to building grit, but it allows your interactions to be deep, honest, and authentic. It allows you to be courageous and make the hard decisions. It allows you to push through the hard times. Passion helps you go from being an average leader to a truly great leader.

Hard Work

Hard work is a critical part of being a successful leader. Hard work allows you to combine your purpose, your passion, your talents, and your skills to actually achieve your goals. Becoming a truly successful leader is going to require putting all those pieces (and so many more) together. When you get your purpose, your passions, your talents/knowledge/skills… all heading in the same direction, amazing things can happen.

I think it is important to remember the idea of the Naturalness Bias. As a leader, when looking for people to fill your team, you need to be aware of the tendency to see people who you perceive as ‘naturals’ as being better than those who had to work hard. So when filling your team, you are going to be more likely to select those people. However, people who feel they are more talented are at risk of being a ‘fragile perfect’. Those who are a ‘fragile perfect’ can struggle to take feedback and can be quicker to quit when things get tough. It is certainly worth keeping in mind when you are working to fill your team.


Ultimately, becoming a great leader involves far more than just the three traits listed above but those three are traits that are critical. How you go about being a leader is up to you but if you are purposeful, passionate, and hardworking, you can truly be a great leader.

What are you passionate about? Does your work do help fulfill your purpose? If not, why? Let me know in the comments section below

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