The ABCs of what true leaders do

Source: Creative Commons
Source: Creative Commons

So much have been said and written about effective leadership, who true leaders are, what they say and do, which can make putting it all together into a digestible piece a bit overwhelming. How simply can you describe what real leaders do? From literatures written by top leadership authors, practitioners, as well as, from my personal experiences, I use the 26 letters of the alphabet to articulate what real leaders do, as presented below:

True leaders- 

A – Ask questions.

“I believe successful leaders understand that asking questions–and listening with intention–is the best way to manage and lead” – Rhett Power on

 B- Build trust.

“Trust is not a benefit that comes packaged with the nameplate on your door. It must be earned, and it takes time”- David Horsager on

C- Create an inclusive culture.

“Sometimes it takes intentionally role-modeling examples to illustrate the point that no one person is above any specific task, including myself. Although specific roles may have different values in an organization, as individuals, we are still equal”- Lindsay from

D- Deal with the status quo.

“Leaders challenge the status quo to entice improvements…. Every challenge involves confronting the status quo…we have to test the unproven, dive deep in the unspoken, and challenge the unchallenged.”- Lolly Daskal

E- Epitomize possibilities

“ A true leader shows us that our world is indeed heading somewhere and that we control its movement. That we need not be at the mercy of personal prejudices or the prevailing political wind. That none of us are subservient to history or nature — that we are history and nature”- Rabbi Simon Jacobson on

F- Focus, focus and focus.

“Great leaders understand that no one can predict the future. Rather than endlessly thinking through all the countless possibilities, they get focused” – Jas Singh on Pulse

G- Give credit.

“True leaders, and truly successful people give away credit for things that have gone well, and take blame for things that turned out poorly”- Pat Sweet on Engineering & Leadership.

H-Humble self.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say we did it ourselves”- A quote from Lao Tzu.

I-Influence and inspire others.

“Influence alone is not true leadership. True leadership is the capacity to influence others through inspiration motivated by a passion, generated by a vision, produced by a conviction, ignited by a purpose”-

J- Justify their actions less, listens more.

“…listen without justifying your actions or people will stop giving you feedback. Moreover when you are busy defending your actions, you miss what the person is trying to tell you”- Chris Musselwhite on

K-Keep growing self and people.

“Leaders accomplish their visions through personal growth and personnel growth”- John Maxwell on The John Maxwell Co.

L- Live a life of gratitude.

“Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend….A good leader shows gratitude for even the smallest things”- Elizabeth Babcock on

M-Make themselves vulnerable.

 “Every leader has vulnerability. The greatest leaders have the self-awareness to recognize this fact. They also recognize that showing their vulnerability is a sign of courage and strength”- David K. Williams on Forbes.

N-Never say never.

“Bold leaders dream the impossible and accomplish the impossible. ‘Never’ is a word that is not in their vocabulary”-Gurbaksh Chahal on


“The manager imitates; the leader originates”- Michael McKinney on   

P-Practice what they preach.

“Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions”- Glenn Llopis on Forbes.

Q- Question Self to be better for others.

“The best leaders dig into their teams so they can get more from their best performers and the most from under performers. The only way to begin that critical exercise is with a single question, “What do my people really need from me?”- Tor Constantino on

R- Remain calm in crisis situations.

“In crisis……Strong leaders acknowledge their feelings and manage them without losing sight of what’s most important — fixing the problem, fast”- Nadia Goodman on

S- Stay curious.

“….the best leaders understand that innovation and new approaches can come from many places and are always on the lookout for knowledge or people who might inform them and give them an advantage”- Gwen Moran on

T-Take a stand.

“Leadership requires the courage to take a stand for change. That courage unlocks innovation, which is absolutely critical if companies want to get ahead of their customers’ journeys and shape their expectations”- David Edelman on Pulse.

U- Unearth people’s potentials.

“One of the privileges and responsibilities of leadership is to unearth and polish the treasure of who others are”- Angela Owen on TBL

V- Value integrity.

“True leaders have integrity. Integrity is the very core of their influence. Living the values they profess to believe is what gives them credibility and allows others to place their trust in them”- Amy Rees Anderson on Forbes.  

W- Work alongside their people.

“True leaders work right alongside the people they lead in order to get to know and care about the people they are leading. Working with people allows leaders to lift and inspire their team”- Amy Rees Anderson on Forbes.  

X- Xerox themselves into other people.

“Leaders replicate themselves into others so the new leader can lead”- Rick Thomas on Blog.

Y- Yell the good.

“Toxic environments develop when leaders don’t realize their power. Quiet is loud when you are respected, powerful and authoritative. Yell the good, whisper the bad”-Dan Rockwell on Leadership Freak.

Z- Zero in on essential things.

“….the related instinct to simplify things by zeroing in on their essence and eliminating unnecessary components. ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication…”- Walter Isaacson on Havard Business Review.

Whew!! That wasn’t so exhaustive, was it? True leadership demands a lot and it is interpreted or understood differently by us all. What is your take on what true leaders do? Kindly share your views by dropping a comment below.

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