What The Best Leaders Have and Do

When I am working with groups of people on improving leadership skills, one of the things I always get them to do is to identify what the best leaders they have come across do.

As well as identifying what they do, they always highlight a number of things that they have that make a difference.

From working with literally hundreds of emerging leaders, some of the most common things that they do include:

  1. Clearly allocate roles and responsibilities
  2. Give regular feedback to people
  3. Set clear goals and outcomes
  4. Make expectations clear
  5. Focus on what they do best
  6. Make good use of the time they have available
  7. Empower others

Some of the most common things that they have include:

  1. A real interest in others
  2. A willingness to make time for people
  3. Personal drive
  4. Determination
  5. Professionalism
  6. The ability to motivate and inspire
  7. A passion for delivering results

The truth is leading is as much about behaviours as it is about knowing how to do things. In fact, some research would suggest that almost all of the results that leaders achieve are down to their levels of emotional intelligence rather than how smart they are.

Discover 20 more ways to stand out as a leader

Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps accountants and health professionals to become highly effective leaders and managers. He invites you to take advantage of his free audio e-course Leadership Success at www.goalsandachievements.co.uk

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

Leave a Comment:

Billy Kirsch says 23 February 2011

Empowering others and listening are such important qualities for leadership. When we work with groups in our programs we notice that leaders who are alienated from their workforce project their own preoccupations more than they listen. So your traits listed above including empowering others and the ability to motivate and inspire are vital. Thanks for a great list Duncan.

Stephen Turnock says 24 February 2011

I can only identify in one word (almost!) that what the best leaders I have come across actually have and do is be a Contagion of a positive ‘Mindset’. Not just in respect of leadership in development of business revenue or whatever the goal, but also balance in the areas of life, health and relationships.

Duncan Brodie says 24 February 2011


Thanks so much for your comment. I can totally relate to your experiences in your programs. Listening is probably one of the most valuable yet under used qualities of leaders.


Duncan Brodie says 24 February 2011


Great point. I am noticing the whole issue of Mindset coming up more and more. I also really like the point you make about it not just applying to leadership but to life as a whole.

Thanks for your contribution to the blog post.


kamal kapoor says 24 February 2011


The most important point figures last in the list. Leaders transmit their passion to the team in a sense that the team gets empowered, excited and finally share the passion unequivocally. The rest is routine and a given for any leader. He can be most efficient in all the points you have listed but if he is himself not passionate and cannot transmit the passion to the team he ain’t any good leader.

Duncan Brodie says 24 February 2011


Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree that passion is important and the order in the list was not meant to suggest one was more important than the other.

The challenge is always going to be getting others to share your passion.

I have worked with leaders who without doubt were passionate but that does not necessarily mean that they could change hearts and minds.

Thanks again for your contribution to the topic.


Todd Hayes says 25 February 2011

Great list Duncan, Billy has some good perspective on the need for listening.

I have noticed through my career that the leaders that practice “active listening” with an open mind, thoughtful restrospection, asking “non loeaded” questions, etc. and actually identify what people are saying – and then ACTING on it, leads to success.

Too often we are moving too quickly in business, and taking time to listen to those you lead, other leaders, and also those that may not be effectively leading (you can learn from bad as well as good) delivers a more comprehensive approach to leading.

James Pepitone says 19 March 2011

Duncan, from your lists, I am imagining that the “dos” can reasonably be learned within a year or so with effort and discipline, yet the “haves” are probably more stable (i.e., natural/developed traits, not quickly learnable) characteristics of a person. This suggests that people are effective leaders or not, and those that are not very effective would need to make an enduring effort and then still probably would never be particularly effective. In other words, each of us is naturally endowed and developed through our experiences to have the characteristics (i.e., have) and behave (i.e., do) our way, and while we can further develop our leadership behavior or practices, it is not likely that we can acquire the more stable characteristics (i.e., “haves”) of effective leaders that we do not already possess . . . except perhaps through very disciplined effort over an extended period of time (5-10 years +). Coupled with the research finding that people generally enjoy the activities at which they are better (or naturally endowed and developed to perform), this thinking supports the construct of person-role fit and practice of selection, or that each of us will naturally be better in some roles than in others. Do you agree and why, as I suspect we could find others who might disagree, rightly or wrongly? I look forward to learning from your insight. Thanks!

Duncan Brodie says 20 March 2011


Really appreciate your comment.

I think a lot of things around leadership can be learned fairly quickly. At the same time there is a huge difference between having understanding at a theoretical level and doing things almost automatically. What I have found is that having experience is really where a lot the real learning comes from. For example, there is a real skill in giving feedback and at the same time you will need to approach it differently with different people and different situations.

So for me it is not really about length of time as I think that we are always learning and there are always things that we can do better (and maybe even things we learn that we should not be doing at all).

On the role fit piece and think you make some great points. People like, enjoy and are good at different things and are going to be drawn to some things more than others. For me that is a strength. We want people in leadership and management roles with different qualities, skills and experience. It is that richness that really contributes to success. At the end of the day it is all about balance.

Duncan Brodie says 20 March 2011


Great point on active listening. I often see people missing out on real gems of ideas and contributions because they are passively rather than actively listening.

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