Spurred in part by an exercise I did at an ActionCOACH business planning workday, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a leader.  My commitment is to be a great one, and I’m getting clear that in order to be successful, there are certain traits that I must possess.

Here are my top ten:leader

  1. Deliver clear, consistent communication. Of course there are no guarantees that everyone will understand the communication the way you meant it. At least if you’re clear and consistent, you minimize the possibility of misinterpretation or gaps in the lines of command.
  2. Learn from your mistakes and miscommunications. If you keep making the same mistakes, you are not being a leader. You are just being insane. Learning from your mistakes requires a willingness to self-evaluate, and a commitment to the utmost integrity.
  3. Be charismatic. What this means is to be present in the moment.  Show up as who you are and not the way you think you should be. Charisma also requires a sense of humor!
  4. Be unstoppable. Obstacles and challenges are bound to arise.  If you stop to carefully examine the obstacle you will not get past it.  Keep looking toward your goals, and obstacles will have nothing on you.
  5. Have vision. Know why you are doing what you are doing, and have it be about something or someone other than you (or money).  Vision will help you be unstoppable and inspiring.
  6. Be inspiring. Ask yourself, “Would you follow you?” If the answer is no, “Stop, drop and roll” and get yourself back in alignment.  Get yourself to “Yes.” Take action! And be the inspiring leader you know you truly are.
  7. Support the people around you. The measure of a great leader is the success of the people he or she leads. If the people around you are learning and growing, you’re doing something right.
  8. Be willing to change direction. Stubbornly charging toward a particular goal in a particular way is a recipe for disaster.  Flexibility will allow for unexpected expansion and miraculous results. Keep looking for the next way to grow.
  9. Be committed. Dabblers and dilettantes will not get very far in leading anyone.  Leaders can be counted on to be 100% in the game and to ride out the ups and downs.
  10. Know that it’s a game, and play full-out. Play a BIG game.  That way if you win, you win, and if you lose, you win.


Looking at my list, I notice there are places where I’m right on, and others where there is a gap between where I am and where I want to be.  This is good news!  I get to learn and grow and always strive to more fully embody the qualities of a leader.

What do you see for yourself in this list? Please share in the comments below.


  1. People have always looked to me to be a leader, and this piece captivated me in its extraordinarily concise power and clarity. Before reading it, I would think back to times when I had assumed leadership gracefully, seamlessly, or with the poise of a loud-mouthed klutz. I would ask myself what it was that made the difference between my being effective or ineffective in my various roles as a leader, and I would unsuccessfully pretend to avoid assigning blame to circumstances, myself or other people. What I have as a result of your article is (1) a map that redefines the points in my life where I’ve shown up as a leader in all my glory of effectiveness or lack of same and (2) a key to areas of my leadership that I choose to revisit with new eyes and fresh energy. Thank you for this gift.

  2. Thanks Michael! It’s true that obstacles need to be handled and not ignored. Where we can get in trouble is by becoming so fascinated by the problem that it becomes our goal, causing us to stop pursuing the goal we had in mind in the first place. We also often make the obstacle a lot bigger and more complicated than it really is! When we keep looking toward our vision, it becomes much easier to blast through the challenges that come in our way.

    • Thanks Sandra. I believe that charisma can be learned and developed, if you define it as being yourself and being present. You might be surprised how many people who think they don’t have charisma are just holding back from being themselves!

  3. Using an acronym for MAP – My Action Plan – not only sets the vision as where to go as a leader, but provides the steps to get there. Peter Drucker said “Leadership was all about results.” I have amended that definition as follows: Leadership is all about consistently achieving the predetermined results by the demonstration of behaviors that are in alignment with clearly articulated positive core values.

    Great 10 points, thanks for sharing,

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith
    Author of Be the Red jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits

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