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  • Randy Tuminello

Eight Traits of a Great Leader

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Every human endeavor requires leadership. As Zig Ziglar, the noted business author once said, “Even a two-car parade gets fouled up if you don’t decide ahead of time who’s going to lead.”

While the need for leadership is fundamental, even more important is the need for effective leadership. Just by the mere virtue of their position and influence, leaders hold within their power the ability to build up or destroy practically everything that resides within their trust—including people’s lives. People have lost fortunes and—even more priceless—their own self-worth as a result of selfish or irresponsible leadership. With so much at stake, it’s important to reexamine just what it is that successful leaders do. Consider the following axioms of successful leadership.

1. Successful leaders earn the trust of those who follow them. Great leaders are people of integrity. Leaders lead people. People follow when they believe in the character and competence of the one leading.

2. Successful leaders know how to cultivate and release human potential. Reflect back on your favorite teachers in school. What kind of people were they? They cared about you enough to demand your best. They helped you to believe in yourself. They helped build your self-confidence. We willingly follow those who can make us feel good about ourselves.

3. Successful leaders know where they’re going. Good leaders not only have vision, but the planning, organizational and communication skills to rally people around that vision as well. They move ahead with confidence and optimism in a way that makes people feel secure in any change of direction.

4. Successful leaders aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves! The most admired leaders are those who show the willingness to fight side by side in the trenches with those under their command. The best leaders lead by example—out in the dirt, dust and smoke of battle—not behind a comfortable desk, seated in the proverbial high back leather chair. As a leader, if you want people to serve well under you, you must first place them above you. This means you must see yourself as the one who serves rather than the one being served.

5. Successful leaders are genuinely interested in people. They are oriented more toward listening than talking. They ask more questions and make fewer statements. They trust in people because they themselves are trustworthy. This trust is manifested by their willingness to empower people to make decisions—to do their jobs. As a result, they move their companies ahead through inspiration, not coercion or manipulation.

6. Successful leaders teach the importance of individual responsibility. They also model this behavior well with “the buck stops here” mentality.

7. Successful leaders focus on finding and then building on people’s strengths, rather than harping on their weaknesses. Good leaders have an intuitive ability to evaluate people and place them in the right positions to excel. They don’t frustrate them by trying to force square pegs into round holes.

8. Successful leaders are sensitive to the needs of the people they serve. When Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address to honor the 3,629 soldiers that had fallen, he understood that the nation needed a message of healing, not a message of gloating over the Confederate downfall. Because it touched the right nerve with authentic sensitivity, his three-minute speech has gone down in history as one of the greatest orations ever.

Leadership is not a task to be taken lightly. It is not an ego trip. The ultimate responsibility of a leader is to facilitate the development and success of those around them. Anyone who seriously contemplates this task cannot do so without an intense sense of humility.

If people are coming to work excited, thriving in their own development as a professional and as a person … if they are motivated as team players to share their knowledge, secure in knowing precisely how they fit within their organization and the specific contributions they make to its mission … if they are having fun and feeling literally ignited by the ultimate purpose of their work … then I will guarantee you that right in the center of this brilliant flame, you will find the steady, glowing ember of a leader. __________

Randy Tuminello is the CEO and Principal Consultant for Tuminello Consulting, a consulting firm dedicated to the AEC industry and public agencies. For questions or comments contact him at

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