What makes a great leader?
What makes a great leader?

The following Practice Management practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What makes a great leader?
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

What makes a great leader?

This Practice Note considers what makes a great leader and introduces five key skills that enable leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams.

In his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman sought to define what makes great leaders so effective. He recognised that these leaders had skills which went beyond technical ability, determination and vision—he termed this emotional intelligence (EI) and identified five key skills which enabled leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams:

  1. self-awareness

  2. self-regulation

  3. motivation

  4. empathy

  5. social skills

See Precedent: Emotional intelligence cheat sheet.


This is perhaps the most important of the five skills—without the willingness and ability to be more self-aware you will be unable to fully develop the other skill areas.

Goleman defined self-awareness as knowing one’s strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and impact on others—see: Harvard Business Review 1998—what makes a leader? If you are self-aware you understand:

  1. what drives your behaviours

  2. what your natural weaknesses are and how to compensate for them

  3. how your behaviour affects those around you

Becoming self-aware requires a lot more than filling in a few self-assessment questionnaires. The inherent danger of these questionnaires is that we simply reinforce our own view of ourselves. Managers who perceive themselves as being calm under pressure may not be perceived by their team in quite the same way. There is often

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