Characteristics of Great Leaders

In a recent blog post, Michael Hyatt shared 5 characteristics that he considers to be marks of authentic leadership. Michael Hyatt has practiced and written about authentic leadership for many years, and I’ve come to admire and respect his insights and perspectives.


According to Hyatt, authentic leaders:


  1. Have Insight
  2. Demonstrate Initiative
  3. Exert Influence
  4. Have Impact
  5. Exercise Integrity


Hyatt explains that authentic leaders must not only have vision, but must also possess insight; they need wisdom and discernment to be truly effective leaders. “They need to be able to look at complex situations, gain clarity, and determine a course of action.”


In addition to having insight, it’s imperative that a leader demonstrates initiative. “They go first. They don’t sit on the sidelines. They don’t ask others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves. Instead, they lead by example.”


Even the most insightful go-getters will never lead anyone anywhere if they are unable to exert positive influence. “It’s no coincidence that influence and influenza (the flu) come from the same root word. Real leaders are contagious. People ‘catch’ what they have. People are drawn to their vision and their values. They are able to gather a following and move people to act.”


A step beyond exerting influence is having an impact; as Hyatt explains, “At the end of the day, leaders make a difference.” Authentic leadership produces results in and through those it touches. “The measure of leadership cannot be found in the leader; it is found in the impact the leader has on his or her followers.”


Hyatt ends by describing what he calls the foundation of authentic leadership – integrity. He notes that the world has seen a number of remarkable leaders who have demonstrated great insight, initiative, influence and impact, but because they lacked integrity – the most foundational characteristic – the mark they have left in history is anything but positive.


“Not every leader is benevolent. Adolf Hitler was a leader, as was Mao Zedong and Josef Stalin. They had insight, initiative, influence, and impact. Yet their lives were not integrated with the highest values. Integrity—or the lack thereof—ultimately determines the quality of a person’s impact. In a sense, this is the foundation of authentic leadership.”


How about you? Do you demonstrate these five essential characteristics in your leadership? If you desire to be an authentic leader and to make a lasting difference in the world, do a self-assessment and determine whether or not you have insight, demonstrate initiative, exert influence, have impact, and – most important of all – exercise integrity.


Copyright © 2012 by Dan Nielsen, Founder

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