Five Keys to Being a Great Leader

“Your title makes you a manager, people decide if you’re a leader.” Not only is this one of my favorite quotes, it is also my personal philosophy on leadership. We all have the potential to be leaders. It has nothing to do with our title or whether we manage people, and everything to do with how we approach the world and impact the lives of people we interact with.

I’ve had the privilege of learning from many exceptional leaders throughout my life and career, and I have found that great leadership shares five common characteristics:

Thinking Strategically

At its basic level, possessing the ability to think end-to-end and over multiple time horizons. Strategic thinking is a game of chess, not checkers. It can be tempting for leaders to spend too much time focusing on the day-to-day because it seems more urgent, but if you’re able to anticipate what’s coming down the road, you’ll thrive in today’s uncertain environment and better position your teams for success.

Results Oriented

Leadership is not just about thinking, it’s also about doing. In the end, it’s all about results. A wise leader once told me, “Strategies alone don’t move mountains. Bulldozers do.” The best leaders remove barriers and focus on creating an environment where great ideas can come to life — and strategy can make the leap from an aspiration to reality.

Build Strong Teams

Leadership is not about individual contribution, but rather the ability to translate individual ability into organizational capability. Great leaders always play for a cause greater than oneself — and in order to be a successful leader, they attract, grow and empower top talent. The role of leaders is to provide the grand challenge, invest in people and create an environment where their greatness can emerge.

Adapt and Improve

In today’s world, the pace of change has never been faster. Great leaders are constantly adapting to the ever-changing world, and turning adaptability and change management into a core capability for their teams. The best leaders thrive and get excited about becoming a better version of themselves, and your organization has to share that same mindset.


Lastly, great leaders inspire both the heart and the mind, enabling people to do extraordinary things. The best leaders bring a unique blend of emotional quotient (EQ) with their intellectual quotient (IQ). As human beings, we often don’t care what you know, until we know that you care. Great leaders stretch their teams intellectually, while investing in them emotionally.

There are many things leaders need to possess, but based on those I admire, and the lessons I’ve learned, if you do these five things, people will consider you a leader — regardless of the title you carry.

This post was originally shared on LinkedIn on 11/9/15