The 8 Ds of Great Leaders

Hopefully, this doesn't happen at your workplace (source of image)

Leadership is something that many aspire to have but few truly achieve. It is a long and winding road that requires special qualities which sets these extraordinary human beings from the mere mortals. Often, being a leader requires courage, sacrifice and that extra "oomph".

What should a great leader have to differentiate himself or herself from the hoi polloi? For ease of remembrance, let us call these the 8 Ds of leadership.


The first and most important step in leadership is direction. A great leader should not only have a map but a compass and intuitive navigational skills to forge the way ahead. Driven by a strong sense of mission and blessed by foresight, successful leaders are mindful of the steps that need to be taken, even the waters ahead may be murky.


Great leaders are highly disciplined. They follow a strict daily and weekly schedule, and often make it a point to be as effective and efficient as they possibly can. As there are multiple demands on their energy and time, they learn how to prioritise the "must dos", "can dos", and "nice to dos", focusing on the most important tasks first before devoting their attention to lesser matters.


When the going gets tough, great leaders keep going... and going... and going. Of course, sticking to the course doesn't mean becoming like the Pied Piper and leading one's team towards oblivion. However, it does require one to steel oneself for failures, rejections, and criticisms from customers, bosses (there are always bigger leaders), and other constituents.


Managing people is a vital skill for leaders. To do so effectively in this day and age, they need to have the right blend of soft and hard approaches. Here, empathy, understanding, and kindness is blended with tact, consideration and assertiveness to deliver the right message across at the right time to the right people. That means that great leaders cannot be like bulls in a china shop - even if they own the entire enterprise.


Finding the right balance of skills, personalities, characters and backgrounds is both an art and a science. A great leader knows that recruiting a team that is largely homogenous will be a recipe for disaster in the creativity economy. Beyond hiring matters, a great leader will also explore unusual ideas, embrace uniqueness, and accept "not invented here" concepts that could work in his or her organisation.


Being able to close the loop is an important character trait of great leaders. Indeed, successful leadership entails being able to not just start projects and initiatives but finish them. Everybody knows that anybody is able to come up with hundreds of wonderful, dazzling, breathtaking ideas. However, being able to complete and execute well while leading a team requires something extra.


A great leader is somebody who knows how to empower, train, coach and "level up" his or her subordinates. The idea here is not to "arrow" a colleague to handle everything from scratch without offering any assistance whatsoever, but to equip him with the know how and resources to deliver the goods.


Finally, and most importantly, a great leader needs to develop and train his people. Such activities needn't take place in a formal classroom setting but can be done everyday at work. Wherever possible, a great leader would find a way to imbue new insights and build learning opportunities into the work of his team. Ultimately, the goal over the long term is to mentor a successor who can eventually take over as a great leader. 

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