"In my experience as a senior executive in the competitive and fast-paced sporting goods industry, I have seen my share of good leaders.


3 Qualities of a Great Leader


Often what makes a leader trustworthy, wise and worth following are their interior characteristics: innate qualities and learned skills that set them apart from others. There are many traits a great leader embodies, but there are three that we find at the core of the great men and women of history:

1. Listening

No man is an island; great leaders must listen to their teams and the people they represent. However, there is a crucial difference between listening and hearing. Hearing is simply the act of using your ears. Listening requires your focus and understanding, which can prove challenging. To be a strong leader, you must listen to what everyone has to say, and use sound judgement to filter out what is unimportant while prioritizing what is important. People are drawn to leaders that make them feel heard and who care about their causes.

A great leader who has weathered the judgement of history is President Abraham Lincoln. As he campaigned for presidency, Lincoln did more than hear his nation’s discontent. He listened to the people’s needs, their difficulties and their vision for the country moving forward.

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2. Thoughtfulness

Just as a great leader must listen actively to a great many voices, you must also be incredibly thoughtful in the manner that you speak and act. A strong leader employs plenty of thought, judgement and common sense; you do not speak flippantly or make decisions lightly, knowing that others will follow suit. A truly great leader is patient and takes the time to give important issues their full attention and consideration. This means weighing all the sides of the issue, listening to others’ concerns and opinions, conducting accurate research, consulting one’s conscience and testing you conclusion against your conscience.

Many biographies and compilations of Lincoln’s letters underscore his deep introspection. As a man with critical responsibilities to his wife, his government, his nation and his cause, Lincoln remains today an iconic leader because of the careful thought and gravity with which he approached the seeming insurmountable tragedies of slavery and the Civil War.

3. Integrity

The leaders who make history are those who are unshakeable in their beliefs. At their core, they have a moral belief system that they would never violate – and it is on these foundational principles that leaders demonstrate their worthiness and integrity. A leader who is firm in their beliefs is trustworthy, dedicated and incorruptibly committed to doing what they think is right.

There are few examples in American history that approach the integrity that Lincoln is known for. Union or Confederate, all can agree that Lincoln firmly believed that his cause was not only just, but also necessary. He never wavered from his beliefs, despite the dire costs to his family and his country, he pursued the greater good through trial and tribulation, certain that it was his moral obligation. As he said of his principles, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.”

In order to become a great leader such as Abraham Lincoln, you must first practice the traits that embody strong leadership. Listening and thoughtfulness are qualities that you can adopt and actively seek to improve. But to be a person of integrity means a close examination of your beliefs, and the profound commitment to uphold them, even in the face of difficulty. Being a great leader is not easy, but it is they who inspire others and create lasting, meaningful change.

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Julie Nimmons

Julie Nimmons

Julie uses her 30 years’ experience to help CEOs, executives and business owners in her Vistage Group find success in their businesses and personal lives. With positive leadership, a firm sense of prioritization and the commitment to lifelong learning, Julie’s creates a constructive workspace for Group members where honesty, innovation and cooperation can flourish.