You’ve probably heard someone say about someone, “That person is a born leader.” It’s a common belief that leadership is inherent in some people and not in others. But, just like with Olympic athletes, true leadership is not simply awarded at birth. It’s developed.

Knowing how a great leader is developed is essential for organizations that want to create sustainable leadership, drive innovation, and support their teams to achieve more every day. 

What does a great leader look like?

When people refer to someone as a natural leader, they’re usually speaking about someone who is charismatic, gregarious, smart, and polite. And it’s true, these are all traits that most leaders share. But these traits alone do not a great leader make.

True leaders have the personality described above, but more importantly, they combine it with:

  • An ability to create a vision and organize a plan to move forward. 
  • Demonstrated compassion, kindness, and empathy for people at all levels of the organization.
  • Selflessness and a dedication to working through issues and celebrating wins as a team.

Here are some examples of our favorite great leaders.

Jacinda Ardern (Current Prime Minister of New Zealand)

Prime Minister Ardern has led her country through many challenging times, including a swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and mass shootings at mosques in the city of Christchurch. Through these difficult events, she has led her country with incredible resilience.

A few characteristics of her leadership that we admire most are that she:

  • Sticks to established values. In everything she does, she questions how the country’s actions reflect their values. 
  • Speaks in terms of “we.” For example, “This is how we are expected to act.” or “This is our job.” It’s not about her and everyone else. It’s about working as a team. 
  • Goes to the pressure. She does not shy away from difficult events or conversations. 
  • Displays empathy and compassion for all people.

After the mass shootings in Christchurch, Ardern made her way to one of the mosques. She covered her head, humbled herself before the challenge that faced her nation, and spoke simply and emphatically about coming together as a country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci (Current Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Dr. Fauci has served as the Director of NIAID under six presidents. Such long appointments are rarely given to people who are not equipped to be great leaders. But perhaps never before has Dr. Fauci’s capacity as a leader been tested as much as it has during the coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Fauci has demonstrated an ability to lead by:

  • Not making it personal. Even when people take personal shots at him, he never goes down to their level. He always comes back to the high road. 
  • Speaking the truth and giving hope. He doesn’t lie to people. He doesn’t keep facts. He doesn’t get into mystery cures. 
  • Passing the credit. Even as he is dealing with the most difficult situations himself, he creates an environment where solutions and the contributions we all need to make are at the forefront. It’s not about positional authority, it’s about expertise and empowerment.

Dr. Fauci and Prime Minister Ardern are just a couple of high-profile examples. But you don’t have to be a major political figure or national director to be a great leader. Great leaders can thrive in any organization, at any level. 

Dive Deeper: A Comprehensive Guide to Leading Through Difficult Times

How to foster your team to become great leaders

When you take the time to develop leaders within your team, you are investing in the long-term health of your organization.

New leaders are innovative, motivated, and inspired to be creative. Their energy is infectious. When you develop leaders, you’re also cultivating teams who are ready to work with those leaders.

Start developing great leaders in your team by nurturing others to follow these steps:

1) Lead by example

It has to mean more to you than it does to anybody else in the room. You are the most passionate. You are the most invested. You exemplify the values you’re asking people to embrace.

2) Prioritize the three core principles of leadership

Great leaders put these at the forefront of everything they do:

  1. Develop positive relationships
  2. Create and maintain systems that serve
  3. Build the capacity of your team to better perform

3) Assess and execute

It’s critical for leaders to have the ability to assess an organization’s status and develop, implement, and follow through with a plan to improve it.

4) Success through fundamentals

Everyone can get lucky. Leaders establish sustainable success by sticking to the fundamentals and putting in the work.

Look for team members who display these attributes as potential leadership candidates. But don’t stop investing in others who may not have a natural ability to lead. As we said in the beginning, leaders are not born, they are developed. Work to develop every team member to their fullest potential and you’ll see drastic improvement across your entire organization.

Bring out the true leaders of your organization and help them shine. Click here to download our FREE guide: From Underperforming to Rockstar: A CEO’s Roadmap to Investing in Their Leaders. Or, you’re ready to get started, connect with us today.