Here’s My Secret Weapon For Leadership

And It’s Not What You Think

Ask people what they think is the secret to being a great leader.

Go ahead, do it.

Right now.

I’ll wait.


I bet that the top five answers included, in no particular order:

  • Being a great communicator.
  • Being honest and having integrity.
  • Recognizing the hard work of people around them.
  • Being passionate.
  • Being able to make tough decisions.

And those are all really good attributes for Leaders, but I would argue that none of them are what I call, “The Secret.”

Instead, they are simply the cost of entry into the Leadership Level. In other words, you MUST have those things to be a leader.

So What’s The Secret?

In order to be a Great Leader, you must have all those other attributes mentioned above (and probably more), and most importantly — you must know who you are, how you react in times of crisis or stress, what brings you joy, and what makes you angry.

And, you must know how to adapt an modify those personal biases so they work for your team, not against them or in spite of them.

So I have to ask…

Do you know what other people think of you?

Not what your best friend says over a glass of wine after work when she agrees with everything you’ve ever done or said. That person has an important role in your life, but it’s not helping you see how you are at work.

Instead, you need a trusted friend, colleague, or coach to be really honest with you and help you see your strengths and opportunities as you interact with your team and your network.

There are lots of ways you can do this if you don’t have someone who you think will be honest (and kind) enough to help you get a clear picture.

  • You can hire a coach. I was fortunate to have a coach for about a year and she changed my entire approach to management.
  • You can conduct a 360 Assessment. There are organizations who can help you with this amazing tool that is designed to give you feedback from your boss, your peers, and people who report to you.
  • You can conduct your own anonymous survey of your team. A friend of mine once typed up a one page document with questions like “what’s the one thing I could do better for you or the team,” and “what is one thing that I do that you appreciate the most.” His team was able to type in their answers, print them, and drop them in a box so it was all anonymous.

Without having a clear awareness of your behaviours, habits, and tendencies, it’s impossible to understand how all your own personal biases might rub other people the wrong way.

A GREAT leader adjusts his or her style to be the most effective for what the team needs, while still maintaining his or her sense of self.

So that’s the secret.

Know yourself.

And if you’re not sure, then find out.


Ruth Henderson is Editor of Medium Publication “At The Whiteboard,” and a top writer in Leadership and Productivity.

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