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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 www.DonHutson.com, or email him at Don@DonHutson.com