What Makes a GREAT Leader


We hire for hard skills, fire for soft skills…

A few weeks back I was talking with a client. As this business owner described his woes to me about how he was struggling with poor leadership skills, he described the performance of some of his leaders by saying;

"With some of our managers, I swear our employees only follow them out of curiosity!!"

The lack of leadership skills, an inability to engender respect and overall poor performance was killing his profits. Unfortunately, while his way of describing his leaders was a novel one, the existence of poor leadership is anything but a novelty.

As a business leader for the past 25 years I’ve witnessed more ineffective leadership examples than I care to remember. And nothing impacts the overall health of the organisation more negatively than bad leadership! In all those years, however, I’ve also noticed a significant trend among companies where leadership is not an issue. Over and over again those leaders who elicit the best from their direct reports, who achieve higher performance objectives, who have lower turnover and who’s companies grow more, all share some basic natural talents for leadership. They all share competencies that the under-performing leaders simply do not possess.

The 4 most commonly occurring of these competencies are as follows, namely;

1. Their ability to Envision an Outcome.
They all typically possess the ability to think conceptually and see the big-picture.

2. Their ability to Understand Others.
Often called “Emotional Intelligence” great leadership is rooted in an ability to accurately understand those being lead.

3. Their ability to Motivate & Inspire Others.
Great leaders recognise the need for clarity about not only their own but also the corporate purpose. By bringing this clarity to the fore they are able to effectively communicate the company vision and achieve buy in.

4. Their ability to Understand Themselves.
Great leaders are only too well aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and build teams to both compliment and reinforce where it’s required.

While many assume these are traits that can be taught, or acquired, in reality research has proven that for the most part they are based on a person’s natural behavioural style and personality. Most organisations struggle because they fail to measure these talents. These traits remain intangible and therefore, since we can’t see them, we can’t manage them and they don’t get factored into the leadership equation. There’s an old quote that goes;

“Hire for hard skills – fire for soft skills.”

Basically, this means that we often hire people based on the tangible hard skills like experience, resume/CV, education, etc. Conversely, we often have to fire people because they do not possess the intangible soft traits that so significantly drive performance as a leader. The most successful companies do a much better job of making these intangible traits tangible, visible and quantified, and use this knowledge in hiring and developmental scenarios.

The results: human turnover goes down, productivity goes up and overall profitability increases.

Written by - Chris Spratling

If you'd like to see more content like this, why not follow us on our other social media channels:

Signup Success

Thank you for registering for our newsletter.

Email not correct

Please provide valid email address

An Error Occured