Do you have what it takes to be a great leader?

Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager


Stepping into a leadership role is always exciting, but you might also be wondering if you’ve got what it takes.

After all, what makes someone a great leader?


Some managers are certainly more successful than others when it comes to inspiring other people and making them want to work hard and to their full potential.

Think back to a manager you’ve had in the past who made a real difference to your life and professional development. Now think about what made this person different from other bosses you’ve had throughout your career.

When it comes to great leadership, we see certain characteristics and skills appearing over and over again – traits and skills that make for a winning combination.

If you’ve recently been promoted to a management position, you’ll want to start thinking about developing these leadership skills for yourself.

Here, we’ll look at some of the key traits and skills found in great leaders and how you can start building them into your own skill set.

The 5 C’s of leadership

Aprille Trupiano, international business and leadership coach, believes there are five core elements that combine to make great leadership.

She recommends focusing on the principles, rather than the tactics, that will make the difference between being a good leader and an all-out great leader.

With Trupiano’s approach, when leadership principles are instilled and practiced, the tactics arise as natural behaviours.

Trupiano puts forward the following 5 C’s of Leadership:

  1. Demonstrate CHARACTER: do what you said you’d do, when you said you’d do it, and do it with excellence even if (and especially when) nobody is watching.
  2. Live your COMMITMENT: create a clear vision statement for your life and your business that inspires you and encompasses your highest values and priorities.
  3. Express COURAGE: act courageous even when you feel it the least. Only when you act in the face of fear do you validate your true bravery and boldness.
  4. Radiate CONFIDENCE: remember that you bring unique gifts, talents and skills to any business equation that no one else could possibly bring.
  5. Voice your COMMUNICATION: say what needs to be said – even when no one wants to hear it--or better yet, when no one else is willing to say it.

Soft skills in leadership

When reading through Trupiano’s list, you’ll notice that the 5 C’s relate more to a person’s character traits and inner qualities, rather than certain technical skills or accreditations.

This is because being a good leader requires very high-level soft skills.

Soft skills are more about an employee’s character traits and qualities, for example, attitude, work ethic, problem solving abilities, empathy, communication and collaboration.

It’s these abstract skills that can really help a leader to succeed. In a management position, high-level soft skills will help you:

  • Guide and motivate team members
  • Influence employee ideas and behaviour
  • Encourage the team to work toward shared goals
  • Foresee (and resolve) problems and issues within the team
  • Establish a profitable strategic direction.

If you’re keen to become a great leader, improving your soft skills is one of the best ways you can set yourself apart from the rest of the pack.

Leaders who listen

Of all the soft skills, listening is particularly important to leadership.

When talking about strong leaders, we often make mention of highly skilled public speakers – leaders who know how to motivate and encourage teams with their powerful words.

While certainly, strong public speaking skills are highly valued in any leader, listening is also an incredibly important and underrated skill for effective leadership.

All managers have a responsibility to listen to their staff – to understand their individual perspective, provide support and professional development, and act as an effective link between employees and upper management.

As Taylor Berens Crouch, doctoral candidate in clinical psychology says, “if we’re trying to lead people in a direction that they want, it’s absolutely necessary that we understand people’s desires and perspectives and thoughts, and listening is necessary to get that information.”

If you’re a manager or employer, you’ll find that being a good listener will turn you into a far better leader.

The importance of leadership training

While it’s important for individual managers to work on improving their skill sets in this way, it’s just as important for employers to provide effective leadership training.

In many companies, managers learn a lot of what they need to know while on the job. But if you want to encourage great leadership, you need to foster the right learning culture with proper leadership training.

In this way, you can help empower managers with the tools they need to succeed in today’s complex business environments.

Ray Carvey, Executive VP of Corporate Learning at Harvard Business Publishing, says that the focus of leadership training now must be on “preparing leaders to anticipate what’s coming next so they are ready to act. They must be plugged into their customers, competitors and markets, and be comfortable making decisions, even in the face of ambiguity.

As Humphrey suggests, “the raw material that you and your company need to move forward together lies in the hearts and minds of those around you.” Strong leaders are able to successfully draw that raw material from their employees, for the greater good of the organisation.

Looking for ways to help your managers improve their leadership skills?

Sign up for a free Go1 Portal today to get started


Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
Latest stories and insights