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Six signs of a true leader

February 12, 2018

By Mary Corrado, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

In my last blog I mentioned several top management books, several of which I have read.  As I was writing, I began to think about key trends that appear in every management or leadership book I’ve read.  Then I came across a list of six signs of a true leader and realized that for as many different books that there are about leadership, they all tend to focus in on these key traits.

The six key signs of a true leader that continue to appear throughout best-sellers, as appeared on, are:

  1. They challenge their own assumptions.  While great leaders are typically highly intelligent, they are smart enough to know that they can always learn something new.  This brings to mind my favorite saying, “If you are the smartest person in the room, find another room.”  Great leaders will always seek opinions outside of their own to gain new perspectives.  They are not quick to jump to hasty decisions alone.
  2. They are transparent.  Good leaders are open and honest with their teams and encourage that same openness among team members.  Transparent leaders allow others to voice opinions and encourage honesty, even it means an uncomfortable conversation.  That conversation will typically lead to an improved solution.
  3. They love to learn.  Great leaders are constantly learning within their field, but also fields outside of their own expertise.  In addition, they encourage learning within their organization from the top down.
  4. They choose mentors carefully.  Mentorship is key to being a successful leader.  Great leaders tend to surround themselves with others that have wisdom they can rely on.  They know how to choose the right mentors that won’t lead them down the wrong path.  The mentor is typically somebody the leader looks up to or strives to be.
  5. They build strong relationships.  Building strong relationships is key to building a great customer and employee experience.  As Margaret J. Wheately, author of Leadership and the New Science, says, “We will need to become savvy about how to build relationships, how to nurture growing, evolving things. All of us will need better skills in listening, communicating, and facilitating groups, because these are the talents that build strong relationships.”
  6. They serve others.  One of the most important things to realize about being an effective leader is that it is not about dictating or commanding.  Instead, it’s about being of service to others – both customers and employees.  A great leader empowers those around them to achieve their goals, brings out the best in people, and puts others needs in front of their own.  The trendy name for this is “servant leadership.”

I think the overall key message is that good leaders are always learning and always finding new mentors to learn from.  But in addition to that, they serve as mentors to those around them.  It’s all about collaboration – learning from others and being open to new, creative ideas.  A good leader can then inspire those around them to make those new ideas come to life.

Have you had a great mentor or learning experience you’d like to share?  As a leader myself, I’d love to hear how you continue to evolve within your leadership role.  Email me at

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