What Makes A Great Leader?


Today, let’s delve into the concept of Flawless Leadership. If you observe the current state of affairs in the world, you might find yourself pondering, “What on earth is going on, and who’s in charge?” When it comes to leadership, a multitude of challenges arise, some of which are unique, while others are recurrent throughout history.

Before crafting this blog, I took a moment to explore Google, searching for the “top three traits that define a great leader.” Surprisingly, there was no consensus, as various sources, from Harvard to Wharton, Forbes to Entrepreneur Magazine, and Founder, each offered a different perspective on what constitutes a remarkable leader. Therefore, let’s distill leadership to its essence.

We will draw upon Afterburner’s extensive experience working with over three and a half thousand organizations worldwide to pinpoint the three fundamental attributes that characterize outstanding leaders in large enterprises.

The Three Core Attributes of a Great Leader:

  1. Humility: The power of humility lies in its ability to allow others to serve as checks and balances, which we refer to as a “red team.” This framework provides you, as a leader, with the opportunity to grow. It’s well-established in psychology that our self-awareness and understanding of our strengths and limitations are often limited, especially when we’re under pressure. It’s during such moments that we tend to regress to a less self-aware version of ourselves.
  2. Decision-making: Fundamentally, what distinguishes a leader from their team is the ability to make decisions. As a leader, you possess the 51% vote. This doesn’t imply operating as an authoritarian or directive leader, nor does it advocate for a fully democratic leadership style where consensus must be reached for decisions to be made. Instead, it calls for leveraging intangible skills like emotional intelligence, empathy, and comprehensive situational awareness to make that 51% call. Moreover, it’s essential to acknowledge that it’s okay to make the wrong decision, as there’s always an opportunity to course-correct down the road.
  3. Curiosity: The rapid pace of the world and the wealth of information available can be overwhelming. As leaders advance within an organization, there’s a risk of becoming entrenched in the organization’s myths, beliefs, and ideas about what’s right or wrong, as well as the market they serve. Given the diminishing barriers to entry, leaders must maintain a constant sense of curiosity. It’s crucial to establish structures and communication methods that foster open and honest dialogue, quick information exchange, and the resolution of curiosity. Additionally, encourage the asking of open-ended questions to create an environment of psychological safety.

So, if you find yourself in a leadership role and feel overwhelmed by the multitude of leadership resources, just focus on these three attributes. While leadership is undeniably more complex than these traits alone, starting with humility to provide room for others to contribute and letting their intellectual prowess inform your decision-making will make you a more effective leader.

Do not fear making decisions, as there is always room for adjustment. Small, frequent decisions often yield more effective leadership than infrequent major ones.

Lastly, maintain a sense of curiosity. As immortalized by Ted Lasso, leaders who embrace curiosity enable personal growth. When a leader grows, the individuals around them grow as well.

This is the essence of Flawless Leadership, the fighter pilot way. Always remember, you don’t need to be a fighter pilot to think like one.