The 2 things all great leaders have in common

By Pete Hall

Leadership, by definition, is a form of guidance, of influence. Depending on the context, the skills and abilities of those engaged in leadership varies – leading an expedition into the cavernous bat caves of Bukit Lawang requires a different set of attributes than leading a Board meeting or maneuvering a company through an ownership transition.

However, there are two particular skills that all successful leaders have in common, no matter what the situation, the group, the goal, or the conditions are.

First, all great leaders rally the troops toward a vision of a better, brighter, more desirable future. I refer to this as the William Wallace approach, popularized in the movie “Braveheart,” when our hero paced in front of his countrymen in Scotland and implored them to defy tyranny:

“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”

Coaches of sports teams have mastered this first skill, and for good reason: the goal is plain as day. Win the game, win the series, win the championship. Effective leaders in the real world, too, employ this tactic with tremendous regularity: in offices, schools, departments, corporations, organizations – especially when the vision of the ideal future merges with the mission (the higher calling, the purpose, Simon Sinek’s “why,” Bill George’s “true north”) – getting everyone to row towards the same destination is essential in success.

After all, how do we define success? Usually it’s a measure of our ability to attain a stated goal.

The second skill all successful leaders possess is the ability to connect with each member of the team individually and compel him or her to commit in earnest to that vision of the better future. For it’s only when each person is fully engaged, fully captivated, fully committed that the collective goal becomes reachable.

Legendary Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski weaves this masterfully into his operations:

“Each team I coach is different because each individual is different,” Coach K says in his book, Leading with the Heart. “Almost everything in leadership comes back to relationships. I like to have a close relationship with every member of our team.” 5 NCAA championships and 3 Olympic gold medals as a head coach? This approach works.

Think of these two leadership skills from the perspective of a team member who follows the leader. Aren’t there two big things you want to know?

  1. What’s our goal? What are we aiming for? What’s the destination and why is it so great?
  2. What’s in it for me? How can I best contribute? What connects me to this vision?

As leaders, consider both whenever you are launching an initiative, taking over a team, setting goals for the next fiscal quarter, identifying strategies for getting the most out of your team, and any other leadership endeavor that requires your very best.

Always strive to be a better you.

Pete Hall is the President/CEO of Strive Success Solutions. You can reach him via email at

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