Entrepreneurial ambition & growth

Becoming a leader – part 2

A guest post by Gerard Smith, leadership author

As discussed in Part 1, the core characteristics of great, reputable and sustainable leaders are the following:

  • Honesty
  • Vision
  • Competency
  • Inspirational
  • Intelligence
  • Principles
  • Honour
  • Valour
  • Courage
  • Humility

“Widespread intellectual and moral docility may be convenient for leaders in the short term, but it is suicidal for nations in the long term. One of the criteria for national leadership should therefore be a talent for understanding, encouraging, and making constructive use of vigorous criticism.” –  Carl Sagan

In part 1 we discussed the Honesty, Vision, Competence, Inspirational attributes of leadership.  We continue in part 2 with a discussion of the remaining leadership characteristics.


Intelligence is a lifelong pursuit. There is no way to develop intelligence and sustain it without a serious allotment of time. According to Kouzes and Posner, authors of the Leadership Challenge, “Much of what is taught in college functions merely as a foundational language for lifelong educational experiences.”

Intelligence is acquired through the leader’s commitment to formal and informal learning on a continuing basis. If an individual reads 30 minutes per day, he or she is acquiring 182 hours of intelligence a year. With today’s online education and training courses and brick and mortar consultancies, most effective leaders continually find ways to increase their intelligence.

Great leaders do not have to display their intelligence to boost their persona. “If you build it, they will come.” Humility is one of the best indicators of intelligence. The ability to listen, ask insightful questions, provide concise responses and be energetic about a number of topics are all strong leadership qualities that are based upon intelligence exudes. Leading people to understand your points is another demonstration of intelligence. It is not always what you know but it is always how you express your knowledge that reflects your intelligence.


Leaders follow their own personal and professional code. When they waiver from these core principles, bad things happen. Good leaders develop these principles over time and through experience but every leader should begin by identifying their code of conduct and then subscribe to it. Without these core principles, you are merely sticking a finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. Lead through your code.

“Above all, you want to create something you’re proud of. This has always been my philosophy of business. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive, then I believe you are better off not doing it.”- Richard Branson


Leaders who act with integrity survive the test of time as do the institutions and organizations that they lead. There is an overall decay in the political systems of the world because of the erosion of this precious leadership quality. This is a quality that too few leaders talk about but which employees and followers always critique. An honourable leader with integrity can make honest mistakes or survive unexpected risk factors because the subscribers will rally to go the extra distance to correct the situation. We have all seen this. We have also seen the opposite effect.

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton


Merriam Webster defines valour as; “Strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness: personal bravery.” Valour is a powerful word that the greatest leaders possess. In many cases, valour is acquired through experience. Valour emanates in self-confidence and is evident in body language, communication, direction and character. Followers and even adversaries respect valour in a leader. It is an empowering trait that is necessary to brave the new world.

“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”Galbraith


Personal courage is not a lack of fear. Courage is the ability to act in the face of fear. Merriam Webster defines courage as: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Courage is most often the result of commitment and passion. If one asks a courageous war veteran why he or she did the things they do, they most often answer that, “It was their responsibility.” Effective leaders must have a strong sense of personal courage that eliminates doubt and allows the organization to move forward and overcome setbacks. With courage comes versatility.

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” – Tony Blair


“The quality or state of being humble” is one of an effective leader’s most empowering attributes. Effective leaders do not need to espouse their success. Others will do that. Great leaders never think the job is complete. After achieving one goal, they are off to meet the next challenge. Leaders realize that every accomplishment is one step in a long ladder of goals.

“Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.” – Marian Anderson