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25 Qualities of a Great Leader

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The ways in which leaders can improve the attributes or behavior that are vital in producing extraordinary results in organizations.

Zenger & Folkman are well known names in organizational and leadership development. Their book “The Extraordinary Leader” is one of the best sellers on this topic.

In my repeat reading of this book, this chapter helps me remember the most important attributes and behaviors an extraordinary leader carries all the time. This time I decided to compile this list which can be easy reference for any leader in making or anyone aspiring to lead in any capacity.

Are leaders “born” or “made”?

This question is always debated. I have experienced and share a similar view as Z&F has in the introduction of this chapter. The summary of this introduction is:

  • Leadership patterns are often established early in life.
  • Hard-work, perseverance and determination enable many ordinary people to succeed as great leaders.
  • Leaders are a lot more “made” than they are “born”.

How do leaders improve themselves?

Then the chapter elaborates 25 different suggestions for ways in which leaders can improve the attributes or behavior that are vital in producing extra-ordinary results in an organization or community.

Here is a list of those 25 ways:

  1. Decide to become a great leader: Note that leadership is also a role and has many responsibilities. One needs to explicitly acknowledge this fact and put efforts in that direction. Then one needs to decide to be a great leader. To become a highly effective leader requires a real dedication to that task and a willingness to act with intensity and focus.
  2. Develop and display high personal character: Leaders need to have sense about how people perceive their character. The fact of the matter, however, is that people’s attributes and ultimately their character conform to their behavior. So, the actual chain is: Behavior -> Attributes -> Character
  3. Develop new skills: Leaders must move outside their comfort zone to do something that will provide some real development. Leaders must invest in themselves to develop new skills regularly.
  4. Find a coach: Leaders need someone who can guide, mentor and provide objective, constructive feedback for the leader’s development.
  5. Identify your strengths: Everyone who is a leader or aspires to serious leadership, should be able to itemize a list of contributions to the organization, then identify own strengths and build on those strengths. Identifying and working on strengths increases one’s competence and confidence.
  6. Identify your weaknesses and then find ways to make them irrelevant: Just like strengths, identify weaknesses and make them irrelevant through delegation, use of outside resources, re-allocation of work assignments, etc.
  7. Fix fatal flows: In identifying your strengths and weaknesses, if you identify any fatal flows – work immediately to fix them. Specifically reflect on your experiences to identify and remedy fatal flaws by learning from those experiences.
  8. Increase the scope of your assignment: One of the best ways to develop your leadership attributes is to increase the scope of your work, responsibilities, and assignments. Go broader in terms of work, influence or impact on organization. Find out ways for such opportunities.
  9. Connect with good role models: A great deal can be learned from merely watching and listening. Much of learning in life is informal and not obvious. This one is my favorite. Due to its flexibility and indirect nature, you can learn from absolutely anyone in the world and from any era.
  10. Learn from mistakes and negative experiences: Learning from mistakes is a very productive tool for self-development. A healthy attitude towards mistakes and negative experiences is crucial to growth and improved performance. There is a famous quote – “The team that makes the most mistakes wins.”
  11. Seeks ways to give and receive productive feedback and learn to absorb it in an emotionally healthy way: One’s learning and development process relies heavily on feedback and ways to sustain it. Keep asking for feedback, it is the golden path to continual improvement.
  12. Learn from work experiences: An important part of self-development is simply finding the mechanism by which you can learn from every experience.
  13. Study the current reality the organization faces: A key quality of an effective leader is the ability to see reality without blinking. Being brutally frank with yourself, and encouraging total candor from others, is the best safeguard to keeping in touch with your organization’s current reality.
  14. Learn to think strategically: Practice more on thinking strategically than tactically.
  15. Communicate with stories: Learn to recount important messages with powerful stories that connect emotionally with those about you. Collect important stories and examples that can be used in your dialogue inside the organization.
  16. Infuse energy into every situation: One of the keys of leadership is to understand that leaders bring excitement, enthusiasm, and energy to any endeavor. Leaders need to capture and amplify the enthusiasm of others.
  17. Allocate specific time for people development: A powerful tool in your own development process is to become involved in the development of people in your organization. Leaders also need to build the capacity within the organization to continually improve its performance, and thus be able to produce long-term, sustained results. Taking time to develop people is an important behavior for a leader.
  18. Weld your team together: Great organizations nearly always have strong teams at the top, comprised of people who genuinely collaborate with each other and who want their colleagues to succeed.
  19. Build personal dashboards to monitor leadership effectiveness: Develop your own dashboards to know – how do you know if you are performing well?
  20. Plan and execute a change initiative: A powerful development process involves planning a change, defining the outcomes that will result from the change, then implementing the change, and finally evaluating the results. This is one of the powerful activities for a leader.
  21. Become a teacher or trainer: Nothing cements a body of information inside someone more than teaching it.
  22. Study the high performers & replicate their behavior with others: Through observations and discussions, find out what the high performers on the team are doing that makes them so effective. See which elements of that person does could be integrated into your own activities.
  23. Volunteer in your community: The ideal leader is one who is complete. “Total leadership” is about being a leader in all aspects of life. Now a days, people’s work life, home life, religious activity, and community service are not as separate as they once were.
  24. Practice articulating your vision for the organization and your group: Message, values, mission, and strategy need to be repeated over and over. Communication of complex and/or important messages must be repeated over and over till it’s understood and internalized by everyone.
  25. Prepare for your next role, think ahead: Start getting prepared for your next role or assignment. Develop the skills needed for the same. Be ready.


  • All development is self-development.
  • Best learning comes from experiences.
  • Leaders can make huge strides by taking responsibility for their own development.


In the last five years, we at CoReCo Technologies, have worked with 60+ various size businesses from across the globe, from various industries. We not only developed their products & platforms but also have helped in bringing in more clarity into their vision and strategy.

For more details about such case studies, visit us at and if you would like to convert this virtual conversation into a real collaboration, please write to [email protected].

Vijay Suryawanshi Co-Founder & VP, Technology CoReCo Technologies Private Limited

Vijay Suryawanshi
Vijay Suryawanshi

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