9 Repeatable Behaviors of a Great Leader

It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a country, a company, a department, a team, a church, or even a family … leadership has nothing to do with title or position. You could be the President of a country or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and not be a great leader. In truth, leadership has everything to do with behavior. If you behave in these 10 ways, you can and will be an effective leader.

“A great leader exudes energy, displays enthusiasm and projects cheerfulness. His attitude is nothing short of contagious.”

1. A great leader does the right thing. A poor leader focuses his or her energy on “sounding good” and spends a great deal of time on how to spin a story to come out “looking good.” By contrast, great leaders not only know what is right, they also do what is right, turning the courage of their convictions into action.

2. A leader is more concerned with “we” than “me.” Some “so-called” leaders are on an ego trip, seeking all the glory and hogging all the limelight. From their perspective, it’s all about me, me, me. It happens when a certain team develops a new product that becomes a huge financial success, but you only see the CEO on TV talking about how his or her vision allowed this product to be developed. By contrast, when Jill Blashack-Strahan, President and CEO of Tastefully Simple, received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, she said, “I didn’t build this company. An amazing team of dedicated, passionate and loyal people did.”

3. A leader demonstrates an unshakeable positive attitude. Put another way, he exudes energy. He displays enthusiasm. He projects cheerfulness. And his attitude is nothing short of contagious. I’m sure you’ve come across some leaders like that. No matter what is going on, you’ve noticed that department or company is filled with people who are pumped up, excited, and connected. You may have even wished you were a part of that organization … because it’s only natural to be drawn to such high levels of energy. Of course, the leader may not always feel positive. That’s life. But as leadership expert Lao Tzu pointed out, “Leadership has been defined as the ability to hide your panic from others.”

4. A leader accepts responsibility. Unfortunately, it is all too common to see an ego-driven leader take all the credit when one decision works out well. But when one decision proves to be wrong, he or she can’t be found, has nothing to say, or blames someone else for his or her failures. A real leader, on the other hand, accepts responsibility. When necessary, he or she is able to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” As President Dwight Eisenhower said, “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.”

5. A leader is a goal setter. Maury Burgwin, the Chairman at the Institute for Management Studies, proclaims, “The best path to success is to script your desired outcome.” And then, “To reach that desired outcome, script your tactical plan to get there. In my affairs I have a polished practiced script for everything I hope to achieve.”

6. A leader has a passion for winning. For leaders, getting by is never good enough. A leader wants to win and he wants his team to win as well. He wants to be the best, produce the best, and bring out the best in others. That’s why Daryl Flood, President and CEO of Daryl Flood, Inc., is recognized as running one of the best, most successful moving businesses in the country. As he says, “Successful leaders follow best practices that garner the loyalty and respect of their employees, and one of those best practices is seeing their leader have a passion for winning.”


7. A leader builds relationships. That doesn’t mean that she has to be buddies with everyone on the team or in the organization. That may not even be wise. But she has to build strong, positive, respectful, cooperative relationships with everyone possible. When I asked Ed Caldwell, the Vice President of Protective Life, what accounted for his success, he answered, “I have been blessed with four mentors and bosses over the last 30 years who took the time to build a relationship with me, who gave me candid feedback on the differences between leadership and management, and provided specific guidance at key points in my career. Those relationships created what I consider to be the real turning points in my personal and professional development.”

“A leader doesn’t wait for a miraculous business turnaround before he celebrates with the team. He knows that little things count.”

8. A leader celebrates. A leader doesn’t wait for a miraculous business turnaround before he celebrates with the team. He knows that little things count. In fact, little celebrations can make a big difference. As psychologist Dr. Terry Paulson points out, “When people are asked to consider what works, too many look for the big things—those things that get measured and reported. But many times, it is the consistent little things leaders do that mean the most to their teams,” such as recognition for a job well done. Or as Blashack-Strahan adds, “When we’re all stressed out, that’s when we need to take the time to celebrate what’s right with the world and our business.”

9. A leader exhibits calmness in rough waters. When Vaclav Havel became the first elected leader in the new country of the Czech Republic, the citizens were uncertain of their future. So he told them, “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” And Larry Blakely, the Process and Improvement Director at EY, says, “When you’re up to your eyeballs in alligators, it’s hard to remember you’re not there to drain the swamp. You’re there to be a calming influence in the midst of the storms.”

You may not be a born leader. But you can learn to be a leader. And a good leader … a great leader … an effective leader … exhibits these behaviors. Start using them now. You’ll be amazed at how well they work.

" Dr. Alan Zimmerman : Author and speaker Alan Zimmerman, Ph.D., has spoken to more than 1 million people around the world, giving them the tools they need to achieve their goals on and off the job. He is the author of The Payoff Principle: Discover the 3 Secrets for Getting What You Want Out of Life and Work, Reach Dr. Zimmerman at http://www.DrZimmerman.com; @dr_zimmerman; facebook.com/dralanzimmerman; www.linkedin.com/in/drzimmerman; http://www.google.com/+DrAlanZimmerman."