Home / Strategic Sidelines / Blog /

Portrait of a Leader


When you think of a leader, what words come to mind?  Maybe words such as vision, motivation, knowledge, and results-orientation, may be a few that come top of mind. Being a leader is different from being a manager. A manager does things right and a leader does the right thing. Leading a team, company or organization is a challenge, and may be even more so in our current environment than in years past.

A survey produced in INC. magazine in 2013 asked a variety of questions about leadership and I find the answers are still true today. The major differences today are the technical aspects of jobs, the workforce, which is lacking, and the way in which people work (remote and in person). Read on for the questions asked in the survey.

The question of company founders of the top 500 US companies “how would you characterize your leadership style?” The results indicated 59% feel they are visionary, seeing the big picture and inspiring others; 24% view their style as democratic, encouraging widespread participation; 14% as servant, shunning hierarchy and eagerly jumping into the fray; 2% autocratic, giving clear orders and maintaining distance; and 1% say they would characterize their leadership style as hands off, trusting others to make key decisions. Take a moment and list several key characteristics that you feel would describe your leadership style.  

The next question was posed in the same magazine article of “how do you think your employees view you?” The results indicated that 50% saw them as an inspiring visionary; 19% as a tough taskmaster; 18% a motivational coach; 9% the benevolent parent; and 4% the sympathetic friend. Now list how you think your employees view you. How did your answers line up with those listed above?   

Next let’s look at traits of a leader. Think of several leaders that you have experienced in your career and list the top three traits and the bottom three traits. Interestingly, when these same CEOs were asked to rank the 21 traits associated with outstanding leaders, the top three were #1 trustworthiness, #2 sincerity and #3 capacity to inspire. The bottom three were #19 expertise, #20 work-life balance, and #21 likability. Where might you stand with these traits?

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today? The answer with 42% was finding and keeping skilled workers, followed by 23% staying focused, 18% being innovative, 9% competing in a global market, and 8% coping with technological change.

We have gained some insight into the portrait of a leader. Being a leader is not easy, it takes work and concentration. It is, however, worth it. Being an individual who creates vision, synergy, purpose, motivation, and excitement among a group or team of people is rewarding. The challenge to all of us is to keep trying to become and be the most effective leader we can be.

Just to add a bit of humor to all of this, one employee was sighted as providing one of the best suggestions to have employees really like their leader…”beer Fridays”.

Until next month,


Resource for the statics used in this blog was INC. September 2013.


Bookmark & Share

User Comments

Be the first to comment on this post below!