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11 Qualities Of A Truly Great Leader

11 Qualities Of A Truly Great Leader

Whether it’s the president of a nation or the captain of your kickball team, it is easy to tell when you are in the presence of great leadership. Studies have shown that one third of the qualities that make a successful leader are innate while the rest of what makes up true greatness is learned.The following are qualities of an effective leader.

1. Great leaders make tough decisions and take responsibility for the consequences.

Every decision, whether it be to go to war, to run a clinical trial with a new cancer treatment that you believe in, or to refuse to listen to racist jokes at the playground, has consequences.  Leaders are able to make a choice and defend their actions. The greatest leaders admit their failures, learn from their mistakes, and go right back to work, taking strides to prevent future shortcomings.

2. Leaders are focused on the final goal and committed to achieving it.

Nelson Mandela, the first South African president, remained committed to the anti-apartheid movement, even after serving an almost 30 year jail sentence. Great leadership requires sacrifice and determination despite your losses.

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3. Leaders are focused on the future, aware of the present, and have learned from the past.

Great leaders learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. They have the insight to predict where the future is headed, and even though progress might be slow, they are able to keep their focus as they manage the daily challenges of the present.

4. They are able to filter out what is important and what is not.

NFL quarterback Drew Brees stated that the best advice he received was “never let anybody tell you that you can’t accomplish something that you are willing to work for.” There will always be people around to tell you that you’re not good enough and that the task ahead cannot be achieved. The ability to listen to the motivating voices and shut out the deterring ones propels leaders toward success.

5. Leaders are visionaries: they are willing to see things outside of the current status quo, ignore the lines already drawn, and draw new ones of their own.

Mahatma Ghandi found a way to protest the atrocities he saw in India without violence, later inspiring Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. Madeleine Albright paved new roads for women in politics. Mark Zuckerburg believed he could change the way we communicate with one another. Society will always make boxes with labels and people will always be more comfortable putting things in their pre-assigned place. It takes courage, determination, and creativity to change these categories. While this is often a lonely road at first, it is astonishing how one person can open the door for countless others.

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6. They are devoted to ethics.
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    Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Great leaders see something wrong and they are unable to look the other way. Whether it’s changing the operations of a large company, fighting for civil rights, or standing up to a bully on the playground, these people do not stay quiet to the injustices around them.

    7. At their core, great leaders pursue a purpose to improve mankind and work for the greater good of others.

    Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, was told by her mother to “leave behind more than you take.”  Great leaders are focused on benefiting the whole. They are focused on making policies that improve the conditions for not only themselves, but all those around them. They work to empower people to become stronger individuals and thus create a stronger whole.

    8. Great leaders know how to communicate with their audience.

    They are able vocalize their ideas and their mission. They explain their actions and the rationale behind them. They understand that everyone has something to teach them and often the best communicators are the ones who are best able to listen.

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    9. They are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of those around them.

    While leadership requires immense initiative, great leaders know that no goal can be accomplished alone. They can accurately identify the abilities of others and they delegate tasks appropriately in order to maintain efficiency and maximize potential.

    10. They rely on their intuition.

    In the book Blink, the author Malcom Gladwell argues that our “intuition” is based on a subconscious collection of our past experiences. This “gut feeling” works like a computer in that it aggregates all of our previous interactions with the present situation. The “feeling” is then your brain’s first impulse based on the data collected. Great leaders know when to rely on this ability and when to wait for more information to make a decision.

    11. They lead by example.

    In your own life, who is more inspiring: the person who continually talks about dieting and weight loss or the person at the gym everyday bringing their own lunch to work? While effective communication is extremely important to the success of a leader, actions often speak much louder. This explains why so many politicians are dismantled not by poor political decisions, but by mistakes in their personal life such as affairs and drug use (ie. Anthony Weiner and Rob Ford).

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    The great leaders of our world often do not set out for glory, fame, or fortune, but believe in doing the right thing and commit themselves to that goal. They lead by example, make sacrifices, and are not deterred by challenges that would defeat the average person. If you look at the great leaders in your life— your boss, your mother, your religious leader—you will notice the above probably applies to them. Being a leader only requires that one person follow you, and at some point everyone will be in this position. Keep these qualities in mind: you never know how many people are already looking to you for direction.

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    Last Updated on October 14, 2019

    12 Inspirational Speeches That Teach You the Most Valuable Life Lessons

    12 Inspirational Speeches That Teach You the Most Valuable Life Lessons

    The most valuable thing an experienced person has is their experience. People make mistakes, learn from them, and adapt their life around them to become better people. Those people would then tell tales to others to help teach those lessons so that others would not have to make the same mistakes.

    People still tell these stories today but in a slightly different format — they use speeches to express their experiences. Here are some valuable life lessons you can learn from some of the greatest inspirational speeches:

    1. JK Rowling teaches us to not fear failure no matter how bad things become

    It is a well-known fact that JK Rowling’s now-famous Harry Potter series was turned down by several publishers before it was finally picked up. Those publishers are likely kicking themselves in the pants right now. However, before that, JK Rowling was in a fairly dire situation and was on the brink of failure. Despite being turned down time and time again, she kept trying. Her efforts paid off. Harry Potter is now a ubiquitous character in today’s world culture. Despite failing over and over again, Rowling kept trying and fulfilled her dreams. You can watch her deliver some valuable life lessons in her Harvard commencement speech video above.

    2. Steve Jobs teaches us to never settle

    Steve Jobs had a fairly tumultuous life. He co-founded Apple, was kicked out of the company, came back, and then re-defined the mobile phone space with the iPhone. Even if iPhones aren’t the rage they once were, its iconic value is forever written in stone. One thing Jobs never did was settle. He lived life on his own terms and was rewarded for it by being dubbed one of the most revolutionary voices in technology of our time. In the Stanford commencement speech above, Jobs explains how you should never settle for what someone else wants out of your life. It’s your life and you should do what you want with it.

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    3. Admiral William H McRaven teaches us to make our beds every day

    Anyone who has gone through the basic training of a military service will tell you it’s pretty difficult. However, every seemingly obnoxious step is actually a life lesson in disguise. This even applies to flawlessly making one’s bed every single morning. As Admiral William H McRaven teaches us, recruits are taught to make their beds every morning to remind them that even the little things in life matter. After all, how can you be expected to handle the biggest obstacles in your life if you can’t even handle the small and the mundane like making your bed every day? You can watch the entire speech in the video above.

    4. Author David Foster Wallace teaches us that we’re a part of a greater existence

    David Foster Wallace found fame in 1987 with his book The Broom of the System. Nearly 20 years later in 2005 he game a commencement speech at Kenyon College that is worth listening to at least once. In his speech, he reminds us that was are but a part of a huge, dynamic, ever changing interaction of life forms. In order to truly experience life, we need to leave our personal bubbles and interact with others even if it’s in an unpleasant way. Wallace states, “It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.” You can watch the whole speech above.

    5. Stephen Colbert teaches us that life isn’t something you can plan

    If there is anyone who knows about improvisation, it’s comedian Stephen Colbert. In his commencement speech at Northwestern University in 2011, Colbert reminded students that you cannot plan life. Life throws too many curve balls. There are too many unpredictable things that can happen. The most successful and happy people are not those who have a plan, but those who can roll with the punches and overcome the obstacles. He goes on to site his time as an improv comic and how all of the actors working together to create a scene out of literally nothing are all working for one another. He states that like improv comedy, you don’t know what happens next in life. You just make it up as you go along. You can watch the whole speech above.

    6. Kurt Vonnegut teaches us to not sweat the small stuff

    Some of our younger readers may not know Kurt Vonnegut. He is a famous author that found of of his success during the middle of last century. In 1999, Kurt Vonnegut was at Agnes Scott College giving a commencement speech. During the speech, he mentioned that in order to live a more complete life, people needed to let stuff go. He argued that you cannot reasonably expect others to forgive you for your mistakes if you cannot forgive others and that you cannot live life fostering a personal vendetta against others.

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    7. Neil Gaiman teaches us that success can be distracting.

    Neil Gaiman is most known for his work in a number of literary mediums including journalism, comic books, and novels. In 2012, Gaiman gave a speech at the University of the Arts where he talked about success. He stated that when you become successful, you may be unintentionally swayed from performing the actions that made you successful. Gaiman recalled his early success and how he felt pressured to answer emails all day long and it actually prevented him from writing as much as he wanted. So he reminds us to keep doing what makes us successful and to not let others get in the way.

    8. Barack Obama’s life lessons teaches us that you really can beat the odds

    We know that not everyone likes Barack Obama but that doesn’t mean the man can’t deliver an amazing speech. In this 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convenction, Obama reminds that it is possible to beat the odds and become something great. He cites his own upbringing as an example and how he was never expected to make it as far as he did. It shows that when you’re passionate about something and when you try hard enough, you can accomplish almost anything. It’s important to note that Obama talks about this in 2004 and would become the President of the United States just four years later.

    9. Robin Roberts reminds us that we each have the courage to overcome challenges

    Robin Roberts knows a thing or two about courage. She is a breast cancer survivor and has done battle with a rare blood disease called myelodysplastic syndrome. Her sister once had to donate bone marrow just so Robin could remain alive. She was also ESPN’s first African American broadcaster in the early 1990’s. She’s a woman who works in an industry predominately populated by men. So when Robin Roberts takes the stage at the ESPYs and delivers a short lecture on having courage, we would do well to listen!

    10. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that some things are more important than success

    We all know the story of Martin Luther King Jr. So much so that we have a day of the year to celebrate him as a national holiday here in the United States. Most of us have listening to segments of his famous speech where he told the world about a dream he had. The main message of his famous speech is that racial inequalities needed to end and he was absolutely right. However, he also reminds us that there are things that are more important than success such as equal rights and treating each other with respect and kindness. If you somehow made it through school without watching the famous speech, we’ve got it linked above.

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    11. Jim Carrey reminds us that even if you keep it safe, you can still fail so you might as well go big

    Jim Carrey delivered a commencement speech at Maharishi University recently that went absolutely viral. You may know it as the one minute video that will change your life. They weren’t lying but they weren’t telling the whole truth because the speech was actually 28 minutes long. During the speech, Carrey talks about his father who wanted to be a comedian but decided to take the safe route and become an accountant. As it turns out, his father was laid off and his family ended up poor anyway. With that, Carrey tells us that you can still end up failing even if you play it safe so you might as well swing for the fences and do what you want to do.

    12. Bill Murray teaches us that it’s the hard times that determine if someone really loves you

    You may have heard the story about Bill Murray crashing someone’s bachelor party and delivering a speech. It turns out the speech was both short and fairly epic. During the speech, Bill Murray challenged the bachelors to travel around the world with the women they love and go to places that are difficult to go to and deal with. He says if you can get back to the United States and you still love each other, then you should get married right then and there. It’s a great message. It’s easy to love one another when times are good but do you still love each other when the times are bad? If so, that’s true love according to Bill Murray.

    Final thoughts

    Inspiration comes from everywhere and from anyone. There are a countless number of speeches and stories that can teach us an incalculable number of life lessons.

    All these speeches almost share the same message: Don’t be afraid to fail and keep trying.

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    If you also want to live your best life like the above successful people, this is what you should start doing:

    You’ll Only Live Your Best Life Once You Step Out

    At the end of the day, everything is inspirational. It’s just a matter of finding the message that we need to hear to change our lives.

    Featured photo credit: Miguel Henriques via unsplash.com

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