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It was an honour to write the first guest blog for the DCCI.  My desire to do justice to this question was high, so I ‘asked a friend’.  In fact, I asked nearly everyone I met last week and several I didn’t.  And the answers were surprising, both in content and in consistency.  Virtually everyone from the UK to Australia said the same thing – “true leadership is not about the individual – but what happens around them.”

True leaders put service above self. They transport us to somewhere else in our heads. Everyone around them gets smarter, more capable, and they achieve extraordinary things from ordinary people.

True leadership it seems is a powerful blend of ambition and humility.  Their ambition creates a relentless drive to achieve the best possible results for the greater good, and their humility never lets their ego or personal ambition get in the way and yet is never downtrodden.  A combination that inspires, motivates and drives them and their people to give, be and achieve more than they thought they were capable of.

True leaders possess a clarity of thought, a certainty in what needs to be achieved.  They are slow in planning and fast in implementing – bringing their team aboard early to debate key decisions vigorously, before making the final decision.  They are unafraid to make tough decisions and have difficult conversations – even when it hurts. And yet they will act consistently and fairly with respect and empathy for all.  A true leader can also time travel; they can race ahead to check out the future, and they can walk with someone in pain.

In short – true leaders are hard but fair, great communicators and listeners, trust others and know there is no blame, only learning and ownership.  They are decisive and collaborative, inspire greatness in others and laugh at themselves. They support and challenge, and they attract talent and help them move on.

And the litmus test of a true leader?  It’s the legacy they leave – were they a genius, or a genius maker?

Stephen R Covey said “People are often overworked and underutilised.  Organisations that figure out how to better access the vastly underutilised resource won’t just be more enjoyable places to work; they will outperform their competitors.”

By Susannah Brade-Waring, Managing Director, Aspirin Business