One Trait that Separates the Good Leaders from the Great

Brittany Anderson

August 18, 2021

“Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader… they set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role — always about the goal.” ~Lisa Haisha

Leadership in today’s world has many different definitions. The dictionary definition of leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.”

Best-selling author, coach and speaker, John Maxwell, said the definition of a leader is “…one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said that “Leadership is the ability to get a person to do what you want him to do, when you want it done, in a way that you want it done, because he wants to do it.”

What these definitions do not answer, is what makes a great leader? I mean REALLY great? For lack of other terms, what separates the best from the rest?

There are a million articles out there on leadership where you will find an array of examples of what makes a great leader. Qualities such as motivating people, inspiring others, not being forceful, being collaborative, ability to persuade, being accountable, being a good communicator, and the list goes on.

But there is one certain characteristic that stands out from the rest. One that turns a good leader into a great one.

That trait is humility. The knowledge that you do not have all of the answers — because with humility comes an understanding that there is always a better way to do things, always someone who knows a little more than you, and that you don’t always have the answers.

I have met very influential people over time who are great at inspiring, great at getting people to take action, but because of their success and ability to lead, they think they no longer need the insight of others. When this happens, people eventually reach a certain max capacity for growth because once you feel you have all the answers, you are no longer growing in abilities outside of yourself. And if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

On the other hand, the people who have mastered humility, who know that while they may have success in their field, there are others who can still help them to grow and improve.

Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, has a huge emphasis on his program on who vs. how. Whether you are in a leadership position (which in my opinion if you are breathing in air you have the ability to be a leader but more on that later) or not, if you can embrace the fact that there are people out there who can do things better, faster, easier, cheaper and more efficient than you, you have opened your world to unlimited opportunity!

Dan’s whole concept is built around that in order to gain massive momentum in life and in business, rather than focusing on how to get something done, focus on the who that can get you there faster.

By focusing on your who, you are acting from a place of humility because you understand that you do not have all of the answers and that there are other people out there who know more than you do, who can help you accomplish your goals.

When you look at great leaders within a given organization, they realize that they are exceptional at only a few things, and they delegate the rest. They realize that by surrounding themselves with people who “fill the gaps” where they lack in ability, that they are able to scale not only their companies, but their people, that much faster.

The other thing that comes hand in hand with a humble leader is a team behind them that understands they are leaders in their own right. Leadership is an attitude, a behavior and an action. It is not a title or designation.

There are very few phrases that boil my blood when I go in to coach a company than when I hear team members say things like “that’s not my job” or “I’m not the decision maker” or “I’m not in a leadership position so my opinion doesn’t matter”… or how about “well my boss doesn’t let me be a leader.” I get hot just thinking about these phrases!

If you are alive and breathing, you have an opportunity to be a leader regardless of how anyone “above you” acts. You are in charge of your own actions and behaviors and you have the ability to embrace humility and act to inspire others, regardless of what your title or role is in your professional or personal life.

If you interact with other human beings you are a leader. It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily good at it but every single person has the ability to influence others.

If you are a parent and your role is to stay at home and care for your children, then guess what? You are leading those tiny humans every day.

If you are an entrepreneur you have either team members or clients that you lead on the daily.

If you are a receptionist working the front desk of a company whose schedule is determined by someone else, guess what? You interact with people day in and day out and you have a chance to impact their day, therefore you have an opportunity to lead others.

Great leadership by my own definition is one’s ability to influence while maintaining humility. Go into every interaction expecting to learn something new. Realize that your team members, colleagues, friends, family — anyone you come in contact with has the ability to teach you something.

And then take your findings and share the best of the best with the world around you. Use your knowledge to impact those around you so that you leave a positive impression on everyone you come in contact with.

Allow others to shine in areas that they are exceptional at and in turn, not only will you be demonstrating qualities of a great leader, but you will create leaders in others.

American writer, Tom Peters said, “True leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”

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Featured photo courtesy of Ian Schneider via

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