The Making of a Great Leader

Bill Abbate
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Leaders, leaders, leaders. Everyone is a leader. But what separates good leaders from bad? More importantly, what makes someone an exceptional leader? Let’s look at three traits that provide the answers to these questions.

The three traits

You’ve heard it said before — everyone is a leader. If this is true, what can we learn from those leaders in business that applies to us in everyday life? Plenty!

Let’s start by separating leaders into two types — those who lead well and those who lead poorly. While you could list a hundred traits that make a leader good or bad, we will boil it down to only three. These three traits undergird practically every other characteristic you can name.

It was easy to see the following three traits in people throughout the organizations I worked in or ran. Furthermore, it is easy to see their connection to your personal leadership.

To better understand what makes you a leader, check out this short article: Yes, You Are a Born Leader!

These three traits make or break a leader. If you do your due diligence before hiring or taking a job, you will find plenty of truth in them that will allow you to make a sound decision.

The three fundamental traits include the leader’s ability to be:

  • Selfless
  • Fair and equitable
  • Committed

A good leader will solidly possess and display all three traits. A poor or bad leader may have one or two, but compromising on even one will lead to poor performance and results. A leader who displays the opposite of these three traits, behaving selfishly, showing bias, and only in it for the short-term, will destroy an organization in short order.

Which would you rather work for, someone who lives by three traits or has only one or two?

Whether you are a leader or an employee, if you are serious about building a career, your best option is to join an organization that values the three traits.

Whenever I hired someone to run an operation, these three leadership qualities were always on my mind. They bring excellent clarity and create the best results every time.

Let’s look at each of the three traits of a good leader. Again, please note these traits are what you want to look for in an organization you wish to join, an employee you wish to hire, and yourself!


When leaders are selfless, they are comfortable with who they are and exhibit exemplary behavior. Such a leader has high self-awareness and possesses excellent self-control. They can empathize with those around them, which helps them keep an open mind while enhancing their ability to take different perspectives. In other words, they possess a great deal of emotional intelligence.

A selfless leader will attract great talent to an organization. They also develop more devoted employees while creating a more productive work environment.

The quality of being selfless, not allowing people to play political games but fostering a team spirit, is vital to an organization’s productivity and effectiveness.

“Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.” Tony Robbins (1960-present)

A truly selfless leader will naturally possess the trait of being fair and equitable, our next trait.

Fair and Equitable

To be fair and equitable means treating others with respect, regardless of their position. This leader will never chastise an employee in front of others. They strive to treat everyone in a fair and equal manner.

A fair and equitable leader is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of team members, constantly ensuring strengths become stronger while keeping weaknesses at bay.

“A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.” Jim Rohn (1930–2009)

Such a leader is not weak. Instead, they are strong and decisive, doing what is right for the good of everyone they are responsible for. They create high but achievable standards and constantly work to help employees achieve their best potential while replacing those who drag the organization down.

The selfless, fair, and equitable leader who is committed, our third trait, possesses great longevity and is always in high demand.


Who can take a leader not committed to the long term seriously? Such a person will have difficulty bringing everyone together when their commitment is lacking. Why waste time and effort if the leader is not in it for the long run?

A leader who is selfish and treats people poorly inadvertently tells their staff they are not serious about helping the business in the long term. Some of us have seen such leaders come and go too many times. When we suspect a lack of commitment in a leader, it becomes difficult to get behind them and to be as productive as possible.

If there is even a hint that the leader is there for the short term to drive up profits while decimating the business, watch out. Their following will be weak, and only those afraid of losing their jobs will do much of anything to support them.

Their lack of commitment can come through in their selfishness and inability to treat people well, they play favorites. This creates an environment where everyone looks out for themselves and one-upmanship reigns. The company may perform for a time, but performance eventually decreases drastically. When they have done enough damage, they move on to another company and introduce another reign of terror. It has always baffled me how such people find another place to destroy, but they often do.

The bottom line is that a leader must commit to the organization’s long-term health; otherwise, chaos reigns.

“Remember that all success is based on long-term commitment, faith, discipline, attitude and a few stepping stones along the way.” Jim Rohn (1930–2009)

Final thoughts

Whether you are an individual, a large or small organization, or a small business owner, keep the three leadership traits in mind. When leaders are selfless, fair, equitable, and committed in the long run, they create a work environment like no other. People will seek them out to work for their organization. Because of this, they can obtain the best possible talent, which only further propels the company into future success.

The workplace will become a place employees look forward to working. They are engaged and, in turn, highly productive. Customer satisfaction will increase as customers are treated well by the employees. Treating customers in such a way leads to customer retention, which only enhances results in the long run.

Because of the organization’s stability, you will hear people say they look forward to working there until they retire. Wouldn’t that be a great place to work?

I leave you with some wisdom from the father of modern management:

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” Peter Drucker (1909–2005)

Heed this wisdom, and you will build a great career and life in the years ahead!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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