What Separates Great Leaders From The Rest Of Us

bills gates, warren buffett, great leaders, ceo, president Some say great leaders are born, not made.I tend to look at it a little differently. While some are born leaders, majority of today’s vice presidents, presidents, and CEOs have honed their leadership skills over the years through thousands of hours of extensive practice.

Becoming a great leader isn’t brain surgery, and you don’t need to be a top notch neurosurgeon to become a leader. However, not all of us are fortunate enough to be a born leader, but learning to become a great leader is not impossible either. There are  skills you can master that will set you on a path to greatness, and the best part is that you don’t need to go to school to become a leader, instead you learn as you go throughout your career.

Some of us might have met great leaders, others have seen or heard of them, and some of us have been very fortunate to work along side of a great leader. Great leaders don’t only lead companies, but also makes a lasting impression. We look up to them, quote them, and refer to them time and time again.

These are the leaders who become our mentors and role models. They affect us to such degree that we channel them when faced with tough decisions, and pondering what they would have done in a similar situation. These are the leaders whose attitudes, approach, and style we regard as touchstones for our own.

What is it that makes such a transcendent leader? What do they have that others don’t? There are many things that great leaders do that separates them from the rest of us. Most of these things we don’t see, as they are incorporated into their daily tasks, and for the most part they’re very humble while doing these same tasks.

Here are six skills you can master that will set you on a path to greatness.

1. Time Management

This is probably the most notable characteristic of a great leader. There is very little procrastination, and every minute of their day is allocated towards a specific task. Great leaders perform under pressure, and make a great effort to extend a reply in their overflowing inbox, allocate a certain period of time to everything and everyone on their over-scheduled calendars, and make time for the personal sit-downs with those below them throughout the day.

Furthermore, great leaders are sharp, on the ball, not easily swayed, and focused at hand–on you, on the issues, on needs of the team (company), and on the next step that the company will take.

2. Industry Knowledge

Great leaders know the industry trends, major players within the industry, marketplace and other relevant information for the industry in which they work. If you’ve ever walked into the office of a great leader, you might have picked up a magazine to skim over while you waited. This same magazine that’s a month old, that pertains to a given industry, and that has already been scoured through by the leader.

3. Prioritization

Prioritization is heavily tied in with time management. Despite being heavily focused on the company, great leaders also heavily focus on building their team, reaching out to those below them, and reaching out to those outside of the company. They can also prioritize many demands, and always ensure that they spend their limited time at tasks that have more leeway.

Great leaders know that what they are doing is important for the enterprise as a whole, and they’re able prioritize not only what’s import to them, but also to those who report to them. They foster an attitude of, “What’s important to you is important to me”.

4. Recognition & Encouragement

One of the biggest motivators for employees is recognition for their good work and encouragement along the way. Furthermore, providing them with an opportunity to full-fill their career goals is essential. If a certain employee wants to become part of management, they’re given the opportunity to work, improve, and hone new skills towards moving to their next career step. Specific time oriented goals are drawn out, making it easier for the leader and employees to track performance. Motivation is crucial to help employees build confidence by praising them for the great work, and performance along the way.

5. Delegation

Great leaders are masters at delegation. Someone once said to me that the hardest part of any leader is to let go of a given task by passing it onto an employee to perform. Truth is that no single task has one specific way to be performed, but rather there are multiple ways to perform a given task. Great leaders are very aware of their limitations, and are driven by the thinking that they can’t possibly do everything. Instead they intrust the task onto someone else within the company. The key word here is “intrust”, something that the average leader has trouble with is intrusting his employees to perform a specific task.

6. Commitment

Effective leadership is much more than simply giving assignments and direction. It requires vision, collaboration, planning and practice. And this all takes time and a lot of hard work. If you aren’t one of those “born” leaders, be prepared for a serious commitment to honing your leadership skills

Final Thoughts

Becoming a leader is something that takes time, and certainly is not an overnight process. Looking at the above six points, asses your self by asking yourself – Which if any of these do I truly posses, and bring to the table day in and day out? Personally speaking I’m very good at time management, but definitely lack prioritization, commitment at times, and effective delegation. Being an entrepreneur and a leader of some sort to two business, I’m not afraid to spread the workload, ask for help or assign a task, but I lack patience to allow someone enough time to do the job properly. Furthermore, I can become critical, and rather giving someone a fair chance to re-do the task or simply more time, instead I jump in to finish the task at hand.

My commitment to my two businesses  is there most days, and other days I’m half-ass. Some days I just don’t want t deal with it, and instead I shut off by turning off my phone and heading to the nearest golf course. We all need mental breaks, but totally shutting down is not good either.

I do recognize that I need to work on my patience, commitment to my businesses, and become a better delegating tasks. However, I’m still a late twenty-something guy who has years ahead of him self to hone the skills I already posses, improve on my downfalls, and more importantly add new skills to my “great leader” arsenal of skills.

That concludes my two cents on great leadership, and in conclusion I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men — the other 999 follow women.” -Groucho Marx

Readers, have you had the opportunity to work in the past or present with a great leader? Could you think of any other great leadership qualities that great leaders posses?


Photo Credit – (Dealbreaker.com)


  1. Honestly I don’t think I’ve had the chance to really work with a great leader. All of my bosses always had some kinds of flaws that were holding back their leadership potential. As a result it was tough to be really motivated working for these people. Too many people think that once they’re the boss that they can just run things however they please. Unfortunately that is often going to limit their success and prevent good employees from sticking with them long term.
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  2. What I know and would like to say here is that great leaders know that only industry related knowledge or say education will make them successful as they visioned and hence most of them left their ordinary college to give themselves the right move and became what they desired.
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  3. Bruce McIntosh says:

    I believe that one of the key differences between great leaders and the rest of you is the ability to spell separate correctly.

  4. Most “leaders” I’ve had the misfortune to work with are a**##!!@$! They don’t walk the talk. They’re poor specimens of humanity ‘cos they’ve replaced confidence with arrogance, trust with management principles, industry knowledge that’s outdated, time management that warrants expensive dinners and business travel, prioritizing their wants as company needs and delegating their business to the next dumba$$!
    True leaders are rarely known; false leaders usually end up getting the bullet or retiring in the Bahamas, if they’re lucky. A true leader is quiet and respectful. He usually has to go undercover in his own company in order to show his worth. The world would be in a better state if we had effective leadership…we don’t…just the blind fleecing the blind!

  5. I think one big thing that stands out about great leaders is that they are influential teachers. I have had a couple of great bosses who led very productive teams due to the fact that they helped us all grow.
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  6. A true leader is quiet and respectful. He usually has to go undercover in his own company in order to show his worth. Thanks for sharing.
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  7. Great list! My two cents on a great leader is their ability to read people and know how to get the best out of them, like a successful coach. Looks like you’re well on your way to being a great leader!
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  8. I think a lot of people confuse presidents, CEOs and the like with leaders… sometimes they were just in the right place at the right time, or they went to the “right school” and new the right people..

    All in all, I agree with your list but I’d also like to say that there is a very strong component of interpersonal skills. It’s a different skill set than what is taught in MBA classes and I think that’s the major part of what people mean when they say “leaders are born”. It’s those people skills that make the difference in my opinion.
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  9. I highly doubt that a great leader can simply be born, though it’s possible, the idea of someone simply being born with judgement which thus enables them to make the best decision every time is highly unlikely, these things have to be learnt. That’s why all the greatest leaders were in their mid to late 40s when they began their reign.