9 Simple Qualities that Separate Great Leaders from Good Leaders

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.

John C Maxwell

“He is a Great Leader!”

When was the last time you ever heard or said these golden words?

I say these are golden words because they are precious. To be eligible to be referred to as a ‘Great Leader’, you must have done something great, be a torchbearer, do great stuff, win wars, etc. Or so I presumed. How wrong was I! But leadership resides in the small things in life that we mostly ignore.

I was peculiarly curious to know what sets Great Leaders apart from Good Leaders. And so began my journey; a journey of realization that we humans are at heart the most emotional creatures and we long for friendship, recognition.

To be clear, my views on leadership have evolved over time. When I started my corporate journey, I thought a Great Leader is the one who knows everything that he is supposed to! Then after few years, I thought, a great leader was a go getter. As I matured in my corporate journey, the definition of a leader turned out to be completely different. I now believe that a great leader is the one who has empathy towards his colleagues and teams. That definition is still evolving.

Leadership can be observed in various set up: a Country’s Leadership, Community Leaders, Church Leaders etc. In this post, I write from a perspective of leadership in a Corporate set up.

In my quest to clarify my thoughts on Leadership, I sought help from some of the Great Leaders who I have known and interacted with in the past. Not one of these leaders mentioned any technical aspects that are necessary to be a great leader; I was surprised, to say the least.

I have summarized my findings and here are the 9 Key Qualities that Set Great Leaders and Good Leaders Apart!

Leadership Quality #1:  Great Leaders Inspire

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Robert D’sa, Managing Director, ROMYS Restaurants & Confectioneries had the following to say:

“Great Leaders lead from the front and inspire others. The team has trust in a great leader.”

If you do consider someone to be a Great Leader, they clearly set themselves apart in this area. They are truly inspirational. They inspire others to dream and take action.

Robert further mentions, “It’s only humbling that I call myself inspirational. At least 25 people who have worked under me have gone onto start their own ventures and have been successful. That is truly incredible. I am happy to inspire others to set their own goals.”

Leadership Quality #2: Great Leaders Implement Aggressively

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Albert Rodrigues, Managing Director, Millennium Insurance Brokers sent me this message when asked about what one quality sets Great Leaders and Good Leaders apart:

In my opinion, Great leaders think differently and implement aggressively making a difference to subordinates and colleagues.

What Albert is saying is that Great Leaders take action and not just plan. Many of us make plans. Do we implement these plans? Do we take action on the ideas that are on the drawing board? You may have experienced this yourself.

When a business succeeds and they are covered in the media, there are several people who mention, ‘I thought of this plan in the year so and so…’ What they forgot was ideas are dime a dozen. Have you worked on the idea? You may have the best business idea in the whole world. But if you do not action to make it a reality, your idea is just an idea.

Leadership Quality #3: Great Leaders are Compassionate

By far the most important character of a great leader seems to be Compassionate. Important because, more than 3 people I contacted in relation to this article have mentioned this as the quality  of a Great Leader.

The dictionary says compassionate is “feeling or showing sympathy and concern for others.”

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Compassionate leadership is not focused on the short term or instant gratification; rather, it is focused on what’s best for the individual, the team, the organization and it considers other factors that may influence or impact the situation at hand.  This style combines listening, empathy, caring, and walking the talk in order to lead successful teams“, says James Mendonca, MD, Reliable Fabricators LLC, Reliable Metal Construction Industries LLC, Middle East Factory LLC.

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Omar Kassim, Co-Founder Nomad (Founder JadoPado) mentions,

“I’m sure there’s a bunch of stuff – but compassion comes to mind at the moment!”

As leaders, it is a basic quality that you imbibe the spirit of compassion, being empathetic, putting yourself in other people’s shoes! Great leaders understand this and follow this very important leadership trait.

Leadership Quality #4: Great Leaders have a positive attitude

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While most of us do believe that a positive attitude is a must for growth, seldom do we act on this. Having a positive attitude is to keep an optimistic view of the world around you. Great Leaders understand this well. And in the current circumstance we can witness companies and organizations led by great leaders navigating these times with an air of optimism.

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Manish Bucha, Group Head of Internal Controls, Risk & Compliance Barakat Group of Companies, mentions,

To me, Positive Attitude is that one quality which sets apart great leaders from good leaders. It is the attitude with which leaders celebrate success or embrace failure or inspire confidence, motivation and teamwork or approach continuous learning. This is what makes them great.

A positive attitude makes you look at the positive side of things which in return helps you spot opportunities in any crisis. As a B2B trader, one of my friends was really impacted by the ongoing slump in business. But I know him as a great guy with positive attitude.

He looked at the bright side of the situation and evolved to be B2C operator. He set up his e-commerce store, hired specific people, up-skilled existing staff and he is seeing initial positive results. Whether he will be successful or not, only time will tell. But he has kept a positive attitude. That is important.

Leadership Quality #5: Great Leaders Are Visionaries

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Being visionary is to see what others do not see! It is to spot an opportunity and dive head first while taking calculated risks.

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Michael D’souza, Founder of Ivory Grand Hotels Group, is one of the visionary entrepreneurs I have known for some time. During the initial growth years of Dubai, he had the vision to set up and grow real estate related ventures which bore great fruits.

“To have a vision and to sit quietly on the plans is not a Great Leadership. A Great Leader acts on the plans made, by taking risks within their appetite. It’s delving into the unknown where others are afraid to venture. On the other side is a success.”

A visionary leader spots opportunity in a crisis. It helps him stay ahead of the curve. That means he is regularly on top of the latest trends in their sector, spotting changes in consumer behavior, adapting to changing culture, reading books on the subject, reading articles, surrounding himself with achievers and so on. Being a visionary is a quality that you develop and it is not received at birth.

Leadership Quality #6: Great Leaders Are Humble

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Humility is an aspect that is easier said than done. Have you experienced or observed people running behind titles and positions rather than aiming for meaningful work and careers.

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Aloysius Fernandes, President, Redington Gulf says the following:

The one quality that makes Great leaders is the ability to inspire others to dream, learn, do and become more.

Great Leaders do not run behind recognition or a pat on the back. They credit their teams with the achievements. In my opinion, you do not need to be in a higher position to show your leadership qualities. This is a wrong concept etched in most of our minds that to make a difference in your work or career, you need to have glorified designations and fancy titles.

Deena, HR Professional with a Dubai based MNC opines with this.

“I have seen people negotiating on just the designation during the employment process. I have also experienced individuals who were recruited at an executive level and due to their sheer hard work and exceptional leadership qualities were promoted to leadership positions. There is a general feeling that fancier the designation, higher the respect. This is ultimately not true. People who show great leadership are humble about their achievements.” 

Leadership Quality #7: Great Leaders Know Their Teams

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When a Great Leader knows the team, it does not mean they know about their personal, family details and other personal information. While this may help, what they do know is their team’s strengths and weaknesses.

They know who to assign tasks that would be completed. Responsible delegation is the most important character of any Great Leader. For a Great Leader to be called Great, a quality that is prerequisite is that of effective delegation. Assigning task to a wrong person in the team may mean ruining of the entire process.

Great Leaders know to nurture their teams and also know that the members in their team, is the difference between success and failure. It is setting right systems in right places and setting right people to take care of the systems according to their strengths and weaknesses. Great leadership is also about grooming the next generation of leaders.

Leadership Quality #8: Great Leaders Push Boundaries

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Pushing boundaries is bound to disappoint most of the time. But this does not deter Great Leaders from pushing ahead. All of us have our own limiting beliefs. We define our boundaries. We limit our imagination.

Michael says, he has fewer boundaries.

“Defining your goals deeply and having a rough idea is enough for me to venture into the unknown. Most of us have a kind of ‘analysis-paralysis’ syndrome. We analyze way too much. To start pushing boundaries, we must start by having fewer boundaries. Hire a team that is greater, smarter than you are. You ought to continuously learn from your team.”

Leadership Quality #9: Great Leaders Have Clear Values

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I kept this one for the last, because it is the values that define you as a person and as a Leader. A Great Leader is not ready to compromise on his/her core values. The values are most important. Consider the values and culture set at the top of the organization; the whole organization is bound to follow and get into the feedback loop. And it is quite hard to transform an organization’s value once they are in place.

When I say, Values I mean intangible qualities (assets!) of a person such as honesty, commitment, ethics, integrity, equality and so on. In this age and day, the world needs leaders who have defined their clear values. Great Leaders do not budge away from their values in any scenario. They do not compromise. At the end of the day, your values are what get valued.

I am sure there are many other qualities of a Great Leader. But the above mentioned ones are the core values that set Great Leaders and Good Leaders apart.

Clearly, there is nothing wrong with being a Good Leader. You are on the right path. Great Leaders leave their legacy for the organization and society as a whole. The world is now at a cusp of great challenges and we need more of Great Leaders in every walk of life. Do your part. Do great things. Be a Great Leader.

Everyone has a choice to be a great leader. It is up to you what legacy you have to build. Good is no more sufficient. You need to be great. Be Great. Do Great Stuff.

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