The debate continues.  Are strong leaders born or made?  My belief is, that while some of our talents are inherent, impressive leadership abilities are most often displayed by those who have learned  the skills needed to excel in that arena.  The skills are teachable and learnable, and the five attributes discussed below, I believe, are the result of learned and consciously adopted skills and values which are typically found in legendary leaders.

Vision –  When there is no vision, the people perish!  It is incumbent upon leaders to establish and advance a solid vision for the future and to make each team member feel a part of it.  Leaders are highly aware of the track records and capabilities of his/her team members and can, with reasonable predictability, project into the future the attainment required to make visions become reality.  Leaders are insightful in assessing the current realities of the organization, its market, and the current opportunities to be seized upon.

Credibility – High performers in the leadership arena know that what is right is more important than who is right.  They objectively require accountability throughout the organization.  They have a reputation for honesty with all parties and are known for dealing in truths.  These traits not only impress the followers, but make them eager to buy in to the leader’s vision and respond with inspired action.

Competence – Most leaders got the position they hold largely on displays of abilities that impressed upon others his/her likelihood of getting the job done.  They have a track record of achievement. Competence is possessing the skill and ability to achieve the goals and objectives set forth.  Competent leaders are eager learners themselves and require that their people be as well.  They not only encourage learning, they give their team members all they need to excel.

Trustworthiness –  We all know that we cannot demand that others trust us.  It must be earned, which can only be done with demonstrations of integrity, and genuine concerns for others.  Trustworthy leaders are known for keeping promises and following through with pledges and plans they have espoused.  We have all learned that people who display manipulation and conniving precepts are not to be trusted.  The antithesis is the leader who earns trust on a daily basis by walking their talk.

Humility –  Humble leaders reject egotism and display a focus on others rather than on themselves.  Great leaders give the credit to team members for significant achievements and take the blame for non-performance.  Humility trumps egomaniacal behavior every time.  Zig Ziglar used to say ”Egomania is a very strange disease – it makes everybody sick except the one who has got it!”  People of humility show a strong respect for others that is appreciated by all.

This combination of attributes in a leader make for a high probability of organizational success.  These high achieving leaders are always looking for better ways to get the job done.  They are fine-tuning and tweaking everything they can to reach goals more quickly, and grow their team members more proficiently.  As they improve processes and inspire their team, the inevitable result is embodied in multiple successful outcomes.  They are relentless about learning and  innovation as they progress into the unknown with sound strategies and a noble vision.  What a pleasure it is to be led by such a person!


  • Don Hutson is a NY Times/Wall Street Journal #1 Best-Selling Author and a Hall of Fame Speaker.  He resides in Memphis, TN where he is CEO of U. S. Learning.  Visit, or email him at

I was recently talking to a client about the desired outcomes he wanted from the program I was going to deliver to his sales team.  As we discussed potential sub-topics which I felt should be included in the content, he said “I don’t think we want to include that one – our people have heard that before”.   It was updated content that was, in my opinion, critical to his desired outcome.

So I asked him “They’ve heard it already.  OK.  Did they really learn it and are they using it in a manner that has positively impacted your bottom line?”

He said “As a matter of fact, NO they haven’t – Let’s put it in the program”, which we did, and they found that it took a new meaning that was valuable.

My friend, Jim Pancero, and I were recently talking, and he asserted “One of the biggest mistakes managers and executives make is assuming that someone who is highly experienced is trained!”  I smiled and said “Good point, Jim.  There are a lot of people with 25 years of experience who haven’t learned anything meaningful in years!”

Experience does NOT mean that someone is necessarily trained with all of the skill sets they need to succeed in today’s tough and competitive marketplace!  Until one is at the “Level Five Learning Level”, they really are not trained.

Here’s my model for the five levels of learning…

  1. The Energized Beginner – The time at which people are most excited about learning is when they begin a new job. Managers should nurture the eagerness they demonstrate and subject them to the content and learning process that will enable them to progress;
  2. The Disillusioned Novice – This is the person who says “Wow this is more complex than I anticipated. I’ve got a lot to learn here!”  Keep them committed to the learning process so that they can make headway and start to make a difference;
  3. The Tentative Performer – This is the person who is experiencing progress and feels good about things that are working. Continued coaching and habit development are in order for more achievement.
  4. The Competent Producer – This is the person who has continued to apply herself and is experiencing gratifying results. They are on the threshold of being where they need to be.
  5. The Internalized Pro – This is the unconsciously competent person who feels great about the results he is getting and utilizes the most critical skills as a natural internalized habit. They get results in a timely manner and are generally categorized as your best producers.

Good luck on growing your team and helping each person in your organization become a “success machine”!

Don Hutson is CEO of U. S. Learning and can be reached at or

Be A Power Listener!

We don’t tend to think of listening as a Power Activity because in and of itself, it has historically been a reactionary behavior rather than a proactive one.  Now is the time to change that!  When you are conversing with a client, prospect, superior or even a family member, clarity of communication is very important.  Being a skilled listener is not only a respectful activity, it will improve your efficiency in dealing with others and help you build trust that is so important in key relationships.

Here are 6 tips to help you become a Power Listener:

  1. Vow to concentrate on what the other person is saying. Give them eye contact, take notes when appropriate, and remember that first and foremost that we listen for context and understanding.
  2. Seek clarity to assure that effective communications has taken place. To do this, at appropriate times ask concise questions to verify your understanding of their transmission.  Probe for detail when appropriate and you will gain enhanced understanding.
  3. Repeat key ideas as you seek their confirmation that clear communications has taken place. Restate some of their thoughts and conclusions so that you can take communications to the next level.  As you extrapolate their thoughts into advanced understanding they will be impressed with your skills and pleased with your action-oriented spirit.
  4. Confirm what you will do going forward in response to their ideas. They will respect your action-oriented approach to dealing with them.
  5. Perform the promised function or actions with timeliness and expertise and you will be in the minority of great communicators.
  6. Check back to confirm that your actions have been taken, the results so far, and their expectations going forward, and your next steps will be clear, and the person will respect your proactivity.

Remember that when we poorly communicate, communications doesn’t fully take place.  Be a Power Listener and miscommunications will not ever hamper your life again!

Don Hutson is CEO of U. S. Learning and can be reached at or


“Jim Tunney’s new book reveals the high integrity solutions deployed by great people, as well as the issues confounding the lives of those who make poor decisions. The fact that all of his examples come from the world of sports makes each segment timely and compelling. This book is for winners who want to keep that status!”  On Amazon Click Here

Don Hutson, NY Times #1 Best-Selling Author, Hall of Fame Speaker, and
CEO of U. S. Learning

The first issue with asking prospective clients questions is: Do YOU have the inclination to do so? Many people go right into a discussion of their capabilities or products, their company, etc. without enough “discovery” taking place. I like the adage that anyone who goes into a presentation without performing some needs-analysis first is NOT a professional!

The next question for us to consider is: Are we asking good questions that are relevant? Gone are the days when we asked customers “Do you need anything today?” The more creative and in-depth the question, the more elaborative and in-depth the answer. Here are a couple of categorical examples of what we might ask today:

  • Competitive Leverage Questions: “In your annual review meeting with your existing vendor, did they put new ideas on the table for performance improvement or cutting edge solutions to your problems?”
  • Front-loaded Open-ended Questions: “In light of your industries improvement trends, how do you plan to alter your inventory counts?
  • Pain-Point Questions: “You mentioned in our last visit that the quality of product components had become a major issue for your company. Have mandates from upper management come through for fixing these problems as yet?”
  • Close-Ended Questions: “When do you anticipate that a decision will be made on the proposal we have on the table with you?”
  • Questions on Complex Issues: “I understand there are four people in your decision loop – Do you have specific suggestions as to how I might be able to ask them some needs analysis questions as well?”

Become a student of asking really good questions, and your performance will soar!



What happens when your longtime customer says they want you to cut your price?  Forget that you’ve been servicing the account for years!  Management has demanded that all departments cut costs, and a new competitor is angling for your business.

When you know how to sell value, price issues become less important to making the sale when you know what it really takes to be a deal maker without cutting into your profits!

The expert on selling value, Don Hutson has agreed to share his expertise for FREE on our new One Minute Success Series kickoff for 2015 happening Wednesday, April 22nd at NOON CST!

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