A Personal Tool for Leader Development

Today I will give you a tool.  It is a simple exercise to help you create your own theory and strategy for becoming a better leader.

I was working with some senior doctors in a large medical school.  I gave them a few exercises to do and put them into breakout groups.  One challenge was to identify the difference between good and great leaders in medicine.  They were to examine their own experience, select one such person, describe the person to the others in their group, and then find the commonalities across the great leaders.  When we debriefed they were full of energy.  Just talking about the great leaders inspired them.

Every group produced overlapping themes.  The themes resembled the themes produced by other groups in other industries.  In the table below, I sort the statements into four categories.  The categories are from research.  We know there are four variables that predict transformational impact.  Instead of giving you the technical names for each variable, I would like you to do the following.

  • Examine each box and give it a name that makes sense to you.
  • Examine your four, named variables, and ask yourself if you believe they are important?
  • Develop a practical strategy for improving yourself on each variable.


They were not about themselves

They were out to create good

They lived from a higher purpose

They had humility

They transcended ego

They gave away the credit

They radiated integrity

They were authentic

They accessed their entire being

They had credibility

You wanted to emulate them

They could see the big picture

They could communicate the big picture

They could think 180 degrees off center

Committed to inspiring the next generation

They provided motivation

They could effect change

Could inspire change from the bottom-up




Gave you their full attention

Made meaningful connections

Held great conversations

Exhibited kindness

Practiced empathy

They expressed feelings

They acted more like a friend than a boss

Protected you when you needed it

Surfaced and addressed conflicts


Expected people to think for themselves

Nurtured growth and independence

Empowered others





  • Why are the lists similar across industries?
  • What is possible value in doing the personal exercise?
  • What would happen if everyone in your organization did this exercise?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?




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