Good leaders aren’t all that difficult to find. Lots of people have enough vision and personality to draw a few people with them and accomplish a task. Football coaches, pastors, business executives, military officers—there are many examples of good leaders to choose from.

But what makes a great leader?

What makes the difference between an executive who can run a profitable branch and a founding CEO who can build a global brand? How do great statesmen like Winston Churchill or a Martin Luther King Jr. have that your leader lacks?

The difference between a good leader and a great leader isn’t education, or management expertise, it’s the fact that they approach life and leadership in a way no one else does.

Here are seven things all great leaders have in common.

  1. They Listen

Most leaders have ideas, but great leaders listen before they speak about their vision, their solutions, and their point of view. Spend 30 minutes with a great leader, and you may be doing most of the talking—in response to their questions.

  1. They Dream

I know. A dream without a plan is just a wish. But all great visions begin with a huge, audacious dream. Good leaders think about making a 5 percent gain next quarter. Great leaders dream about eradicating diseases, healing centuries-old conflicts, or stepping foot in a place no person has ever stood. Great leaders have big dreams.

  1. They Give

It’s possible to be a good leader while looking out for yourself. You can lead a company or even a church while focused primarily on your own rewards. You can’t solve a problem like providing clean water to an entire nation or transformed lives while thinking primarily about what’s in it for you. Great leaders are selfless.

  1. They Love

Great leaders have big hearts. They care about the people they lead as much as the work they do. Not all great leaders are loveable teddy-bear types, but they all have a deep love for the needs of others.

  1. They Confront

Great leaders do not run to confrontation, but they do not avoid it. They confront their own fears, the brutal facts of their situation, injustice in the world, or poor performance by others. The greatest leaders are involved in the greatest conflicts because they have the greatest vision for change.

  1. They Start

Lots of people have plans for how to spend a trillion dollars. Few people think of ways to accumulate that much wealth. Great leaders don’t just talk a good game. They get up and go to work every day.

  1. They Finish

Anyone can talk a good game. Good leaders can get the job done nearly all of the time. Great leaders finish and finish well. They realize that defeat is not final and that “almost” is unacceptable. Great leaders are in the game to finish and to win.

I’ve known many, many good leaders but few great ones. That’s a shame because any leader can exemplify these seven characteristics. You can too!

Who is the greatest leader you’d ever known, and what did you learn from him or her?  I’d love to hear about it! Share your answer on Facebook or Twitter.






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