Home > Business Coach > Traits of Great Leaders

Traits of Great Leaders


Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. They can be found in all different places. Whether you’re looking at a leader in the business world, in athletics, in politics, or anywhere else, you’d be surprised how many important leadership lessons are there waiting to be learned. I’m a big believer in looking for great ideas no matter where they come from!

Most recently, I was inspired by the story of Francesca Zambello, the artistic director of the Washington National Opera. That’s right! She was interviewed by the New York Times, and the things she said really resonated with me as important lessons for leaders in any field.
First of all, she made the point that leaders need to be humble. Part of the small business owner DNA is a self-reliance, a do-it-yourself attitude and supreme self-confidence. But to succeed, you have to know when to sit back, listen, and learn. “When you’re in your 20s and have that leadership gene, the bad thing is that you don’t know when to shut up,” Zambello said. “You think you know all the answers, but you don’t. What you learn later is when to just listen to everybody else.” It takes us time to learn humility. When we are blessed with success, we have to recognize that we are fortunate because so many other people work hard but don’t achieve that same level of success. Humility is essential.

I’ve seen plenty of examples of this in sports. On Monday night, Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Earlier in his career, Pitino was famed for his brashness. He once compared himself favorably with North Carolina’s legendary coach Dean Smith before winning anything. But as the years have passed, he has grown more humble. In interviews before the championship game, he talked about how he has changed, how his experiences at Kentucky, in the NBA with the Boston Celtics, and now with Louisville have taught him humility. He’s a better leader now than he was when he won his first title in 1996.

Deal with Failure
Zambello’s second point is that you have to learn to fail. “You have to understand that in any position where you’re at the top, you will fail, and if you don’t fail, you’re probably not that good,” she says. In all the businesses I’ve built, I’ve experienced failure after failure. You begin to think you’re never going to get there—and then something will work out. You can never predict it, but something works. You can’t let failure defeat you. If you’re not failing a lot, you’re not putting yourself out there and stretching yourself enough.

Those failures can be difficult, but they are also helping you get closer to the success point. That’s what Tiger Woods learned with his wilderness years of scandal and losing. Now he has come back as good as ever, and it’s because he has finally learned how to deal with his struggles, with his failures. And his young rival Rory McIlroy is learning those same lessons right now, with a disastrous start to the season after climbing all the way to number one in the world last year. We all experience failure, but the truly successful learn how to respond to it and use it.

Build on Principles
Then, Zambello reminds us that money isn’t everything. “Don’t do something to make money,” she advises. “I think a lot of people who are really wealthy probably didn’t start out saying, ‘I’m doing this to make a lot of money.’ When you’re starting something, I really believe you have to have that passion.” You have to have a mission in business, a purpose. You have to love what you do, and you have to believe in what you’re doing. You have to help people, really provide value to their lives. If it’s just about making money, you won’t get there.

Instead, make it about principles. Surround yourself with people who reflect those principles. The people on your team should share your values, your belief system, your heart for service to other people. Don’t settle for anything less. The people around you are important to determining who you are as a leader, and you need to set the right tone.

This article brought to you by Biz Coaching On Demand

Biz Coaching On Demand gives small businesses the tools and information they need to succeed and get great results in today’s competitive marketplace. Learn more by visiting http://www.bizcoachingondemand.com.

Published: April 9, 2013

Trending Articles

Stay up to date with
biz coaching logo


Business Coaching On Demand was formed out of the need to provide small business with expedited results in today's competitive marketplace. We recognize that sometimes small business is overlooked and when services are available, they are generally priced too high to be implemented immediately. We also realize that many small business people have no idea where to go for the help and support they need.

Related Articles