I don’t know that there are defined qualities of great leaders. However, I have observed six things that great leaders do.

The vision thing

All great leaders can imagine the world that they influence as a better place. They can join the dots on what makes it a better place. That have what was referred to, when I was having my performance reviews in my early days in Shell, as helicopter quality. They can see the overview from 10,000 feet as well as the detail from 20 feet never losing sight of how the details aggregate to the overview.


Emotion, facts and symbols are the common communication tools of great leaders. They have passion for their vision and communicate as much by tone and pace of voice, facial gestures and hand movements and posture as much as they do by words. They use facts not hyperbole and throw away lines to justify their vision. They use potent symbols to which they allow their followers their belief in the vision.

Grow others

Nothing gives great leaders more delight than to see others grow and even surpass their own abilities. Weak leaders leave nobody to follow to take over when they move on. Weak leaders are too enamoured by the coercive power of leadership to allow others to assert themselves.

Demand results

Great leaders demand results from their subordinates. They accept failure as a means of learning. However, they do not accept the failure borne of low levels of willingness or constant low levels of capability.

Reward results and progress

Practise risk management not risk avoidance Great leaders understand and practise risk management. They determine the context in which risk should be analysed and evaluated. They comprehend and insist on the appropriate veracity of data required to evaluate risk. They consult and communicate about risk. They determine and take the actions required to accentuate positive risk and mitigate negative risks to a level which they consider acceptable. Risk averse leaders do nothing and paralyse their subordinate’s innovative spirit.

Reward results and progress

Poor leaders allow success to have many fathers. Great leaders identify the sources of success and reward them. They reward team leaders for providing the environment that encourage innovation and success. Greta leaders also reward those who have progressed from low levels of a willingness and capability matrix for their progress, recognising that progress for them is equally as demanding as outright success for others.