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I am inspired by great leaders. They are rare. There is no objective measure for great leadership, no certificate or title, but when you’re in the presence of one, you know it.

The handful of great leaders I’ve interacted with have a set of characteristics in common:

  • They are obsessively passionate about the mission they are leading. Their commitment to its success is unwavering.
  • They inspire people by telling great stories. Their scope of knowledge is both deep and wide, but they really connect when they tell stories.
  • They are both confident and humble. Their confidence engenders loyalty to their cause. Their humility engenders loyalty to them.
  • They are wise. They have experienced a great deal of learning over the years and know how to synthesize and apply it to new and changing circumstances and environments. They make good judgment calls.
  • They invest heavily in others. Without anything to gain, they carve out quality time for high potential people who can learn from them.
  • They experience life with unfettered enthusiasm, even joy. Each day is an adventure. A day without a hill to take is a day wasted. They live life with the accelerator pressed to the floor, every day.
  • They are easily moved. They laugh and they cry.
  • They are guided by deep-seeded values. They know they can’t fake it and wouldn’t want to anyhow. Their core is firmly in tact.
  • They love people. Actually, they are obsessed with people. They are usually the last to leave a room if there are interesting people to meet and conversations to be had. They always make time that they don’t have for people.
  • They have a masterful base of knowledge. They know their area of expertise, of course, but that’s the easy part. More impressively, they know three important things about your area of expertise, as well.

A few such leaders I’ve been privileged to know well: Charles Middleton. Tony Campolo. Sylvia Reynolds. Laura Truax.

Some I’ve observed briefly, or from afar: Tim King. Sterling Speirn. Bill Clinton. Ken Chenault. Cathy Trower.

What great leaders have inspired you? What characteristics would you add?

Robert Acton
Rob Acton is Principal & Founder of Cause Strategy Partners, a purpose-driven social enterprise that believes in harnessing the power of business for social good. We are proud to be a Certified B Corporation. BoardLead is our signature board recruitment, placement, training and support program. In 2016, Cause Strategy Partners was named an inaugural honoree of the Best for NYC Award for demonstrated outstanding commitment to the community where we live and work. Learn more by visiting www.causestrategypartners.com.