The No 1 Ingredient To Being A Great Leader

Number 1 Ingredient To Being A Great Leader

Leadership is a subject I’m absolutely fascinated with.  It’s also a subject I have been known to teach a little bit about.

Whether you are a fitness trainer, coach, start up, or a multi millionaire business person, you all have one thing in common.

To achieve success in whatever you do, each and every one of you can be, and at some point in your lives must be a leader.

When I think of great leaders names such as Martin Luther king, Nelson Mandela, Bruce Lee and Steve Jobs spring to mind, amongst many others.  They were all great people who inspired enormous change to their own individual area.

But how did these people become great leaders?

I’m sure many of you will have your own opinion?

There has long been a debate from many as whether leaders are born, or whether leadership is learned.

Those who believe that leaders are born have suggested many instinctive characteristics and skills that a leader will possess. These skills come naturally and cannot be taught:

In the world famous book The Art Of War, author Sun Tsu** identified that a leader who achieved victory would display certain natural instinctive behaviours during a war situation that other soldiers did not possess. Although these theories were based around military warfare, they are still widely recognized as being acceptable and adaptable for situations in modern times where leadership is required.

Tsu stated that a leader:

  • Is skilful.
  • Knows when to fight and when not to.
  • A leader knows what to do with the upper hand, and also when outnumbered.
  • Will hold the army united.
  • A leader carefully prepares.

More recently, leadership qualities that perhaps can be learned have been offered by who stated that leaders:

  • Can inspire trust from those around them.
  • Continually look to evolve and improve.
  • Are passionate and focused.
  • Take ownership of strategic and critical tasks.
  • Are never satisfied.
  • Are driven by the fear of failure.
  • Communicate openly and with humility.

If we look at the scientific research and deeper theories behind leadership, as well as many other publications perhaps suggest that each and every one of us has leadership qualities, and that our type of leadership will fall into one of six emotional leadership categories.

  1. The Visionary Leader – moves people towards a shared vision, telling them where to go but not how to get there – thus motivating them to struggle forwards. They openly share information, hence giving knowledge power to others.
  2. The Coaching Leader – Connects to organizational goals, holding long conversations that reach beyond the workplace, helping people find strengths and weaknesses and tying these to career aspirations and actions.
  3. The Affiliative Leader – is a very collaborative style which focuses on emotional needs over work needs. This style creates people connections and harmony within the organization.
  4. The Democratic Leader – Acts to value inputs and commitment via participation, listening to both the bad and the good news.
  5. The Pace-setting Leader – Builds challenge and exciting goals for people, expecting excellence and often exemplifying it themselves.
  6. The Commanding Leader – soothes fears, giving clear directions with a powerful stance, commanding and expecting full compliance (agreement is not needed).

So there you have it.

According to theory, that’s leadership.

You are either born a leader and leadership is completely instinctive and natural to you, or you can learn to be a leader with practice, or you are sort of a leader, and there are some styles of leadership that have been created and could fit around your personality!


Maybe you now are starting to understand why I haven’t quite figured this leadership thing out yet?

The Key Ingredient

What I do know, from my own research, as well as years or working with people closely in all forms of life from cleaners to CEO’s, or sunday league footballers to world champion athletes is that there is one key ingredient that is needed to be a leader, that so far hasn’t been mentioned.  It’s an ingredient than in our times, I believe that less and less people possess.

According to the Oxford dictionary, a leader is defined as:

“The action of leading a group of people or an organisation”.

But how do we really do this?

Now let me take you back to the great names I mention earlier.  People like Martin Luther King or Bruce Lee.  These people all possessed many characteristics that made them great leaders.  They could inspire, and motivate and do all the things that have so far been mentioned above.

They could get people to follow their teachings and movement.

But what else was the key ingredient to making this happen?

In actual fact it was an ingredient that wasn’t very glamorous, and is very rarely spoken about, particularly in the social media times we now live amongst.

Because a true leader walks the walk, as well as talks the talk.

They have been there and done it for many years. 

This is a talent that every single person mentioned at the beginning of this article possessed.

Now you may not be that good at motivating people, or you may not be that innovative or inspiring.  Your instincts may occasionally be a bit lacking, or your personality might not quite fit one of the ‘emotional leader types’.

But you can still be an effective leader if you have been there and done the things you are synonymous for, and if you can prove you are outstanding in your area of work or craft.

You see in today’s times there are too many people who talk a good game, or even worse – bullshit a good game.

Everybody is an armchair sports critic, or an expert on FIFA yet they have never kicked a ball.

Everybody is living the dream, when the reality of their life compared to their internet life is very different.

Or they have been mastering their craft for a short period of time, or worse still they want to speed through the process.

Many people who pretend to lead are doing just that (pretending), and are on borrowed time.

But it is very different for a real leader.

Because they don’t just talk a good game, they live and breathe what they do with passion, and therefore lead by example.  They have been on the journey, have served their time and their area of expertise is part of their life.

They use their own leadership style based on their successes and failures and can keep their head and will not falter when everybody else is losing theirs.

They will help those around them create a vision and a realistic plan for their success, because they have already walked down that path.

They can help them clear obstacles and avoid pitfalls, whilst also knowing which ones to allow their followers to experience, as these are part of the learning journey.

They can keep their crew accountable, and push them hard because they have earned their respect, and because people understand that they are the leader (the best) at what they do.

Lastly, they are a leader all of the time, not just when they feel like it.

In my eyes, these are the real life skills that makes you a real leader.

  1. Kevin smith on 25th October 2017 at 10:26 am

    Nice article Ric

  2. brian wilkinson on 26th October 2017 at 11:04 pm

    I wholly agree with this very comprehensive evaluation of leadership.
    However I would accentuate the degree of effectiveness of leadership with the dependence on the situation. i.e Winston Churchill in wartime vs his dismissal as leader once peacetime came along.
    Charisma is also not as essential as is generally believed. Bob Paisley who achieved 13 titles with Liverpool FC, 3 of them European, was according to Alan Hansen not very impressionable and not a particularly articulate man.
    But he did have effects on individuals and the group that elevated their motivation and aspiration levels that collectively got them to achieve.
    This suggests that charisma does have some effect, but that situation and ability to adapt to understand what individuals are seeking is more important.

Leave a Comment