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  • Myrna Selzler Park

What Makes Great Leaders?



1. They know themselves – they know and understand their behaviours and motivators.


Socrates said, “First, know thyself.”


The first step in unraveling any challenge in the workplace is to understand yourself. Once you truly understand yourself, you can better understand others and, ultimately, learn how to work well with them.


Tools such as the DISC assessment can help you get to know yourself - how and why you do things, and get to know others – how and why they do things. A valuable tool for becoming a great leader.


As Sun Tzu said, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."


While Sun Tzu was speaking about battles, the same principles apply to business. DISC is built around four unique behavioural styles that describe HOW we do things and how they impact they way we approach people and tasks. These behavioural styles are:

  • Dominance – How you approach problems and challenges. Are you reflective or are you direct?

  • Influence – How you approach people and contacts. Are you reserved or are you outgoing?

  • Steadiness – How you approach pace and consistency. Are you dynamic or steady?

  • Compliance – How you approach procedures and constraints. Are you pioneering or precise?

Everyone displays all of the behaviours and can adapt to difference situations, but most people have two core styles (high and low) that are displayed the most.


Some of the benefits of learning DISC – knowing your behavioural style, being able to recognize the behavioural style of others, and knowing how to adapt and blend your styles – are:

  1. Gaining commitment and cooperation by getting into their world and blending with their behavioural style.

  2. Building effective teams by reducing judgement, increasing communication and conflict resolution.

  3. Resolving and preventing conflict by understanding style similarities and differences and being able to adapt to them.

  4. Gaining endorsement/influence by providing information about their personal behavioural style and adapting to accommodate it.

2. They have clarity of purpose – they know their WHY and share their why clearly and consistently.


The art of leading is about following your heart. There are leaders and there are those who lead – those who inspire. These great leaders have a vision and purpose that is bigger than themselves. It’s their why they get up every morning – their contribution and its impact.


More importantly, these leaders are able to communicate and share their why clearly and consistently. This way it serves as a beacon, attracting those who share it. It addresses the primal dig of a sense of belonging, a sense of fitting in and having a community.


These leaders think, act, and communicate from the inside out, starting with WHY and not their WHAT.


What are some ways to figure out your purpose, your why?

i. Impactful life events. Simon Sinek, in his book “Find Your Why”, suggests thinking back on eventful moments in your life and try to find common themes within them. Some will shine brighter than others. ii. Remembering that your purpose isn’t WHAT you do but WHY you do it. Once you have clarity on your WHY, your WHAT will be a consistent result of it. Everything you say and everything you do shows what you believe. A WHY is a belief and a WHAT should be used as proof of it.


Take Apple for example. They don’t just make computers. They start with their WHY, which is to challenge the status quo. The way they do that is by making products that are beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. This clarity of WHY allows them to innovate and not just make computers, but expand and succeed beyond their core business.

iii. Knowing your Driving Forces or Motivators.

They are that which motivates you, that which motivates your purpose.

These are:

- Knowledge

- Utility

- Surroundings

- Others

- Power

- Methodologies


3. They have their priorities as a leader in order – most importantly, in the right order.

There are 5 priorities that are needed to truly succeed in life and business. These are:

I. Purpose Know your WHY. You need to develop and share a compelling vision and identify the values. The currency is Vision and Values.

II. People Build strong connections. Lead with encouragement and accountability. The currency is Encouragement and Accountability. III. Pace Keep your growth at a sustainable pace. The currency is Time and Energy. IV. Perception Keep an open mind. The currency is Insight and Innovation.

V. Profit Manage and acquire resources. The currency is Dollars and Cents.


So if you want to reach a new organizational potential, you have to:

Clarify your PURPOSE

Release your PEOPLE

Set the right PACE

Perceive new POSSIBILITIES (with PERCEPTION)

Consistently increase PROFITS

4. They lead and inspire – they walk their talk and don’t micromanage. They inspire others to act.

“There are leaders and there are those who lead. Those who inspire.” Great leaders are able to inspire others to act. They give people a sense of purpose and belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained.


Following on that, people who are inspired to do their job tend to love and perform better at their jobs. They go home happy and have happier families. They treat their colleagues and clients better. They make for stronger companies and stronger economies.


Lead with your actions and trust your team and their vision which - if you have shared your own vision clearly and compellingly - should match your own. Lead starting with your -why- and allow them to figure out the best -how-. 5. They trust their team and their team trusts them – everyone has the best interest of the group at heart. It is a leader’s responsibility to look after their team members first. Happy team members ensure better productivity and happier customers. Not to mention a much better reputation and word of mouth. Trust starts with knowing each other and sharing your intentions and expectations clearly. It begins emerge when we have the sense that the other person is driven by things other than their own self gain and that we can rely on them. Those who lead well are able to do so because those who follow trust that the decisions being made have the best interest of the group at heart. In turn, they work hard because they feel like they are working for something bigger than themselves and they feel safe.


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Do you think you meet all of these criteria? Are there any that you think you could improve at?



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