Keys to Great Leadership


By Mark A. Leon

Great leaders are not born, nor invented, but are harnessed through experiences, learning, environmental exposure and ideals of excellence.  These men and women that invoke respect and admiration from their colleagues and peers have earned this through success, respect, loyalty and the ability to inspire.

What sets these individuals apart from the rest?  What truly defines a great leader in an age where ethics and values too often get compromised?

These qualities will paint a very visual picture and as the colors blend together, a creation will form laying the masterpiece of the core values of great leadership.

If you can achieve these five core qualities/traits of a great leader, your future will be paved with achievement.

Great Leadership Traits

Be Yourself: Your True Self – Too often, we feel we need to wear two hats, personal and professional.  The perception that the life outside of work must remain isolated from the life inside the office is one that clouds the ability to create loyalty, partnership and trust in an organization.  A truly inspiring leader is a person that lets his people know all he/she is.  From the great to the bad, transparency builds trust.  It is that ability to open yourself up as a human being with emotion, harnessed and raw, that provides others with the feeling of community.  No team will ever succeed without collaboration, innovation and trust.  Being yourself is the first step to an open environment of sharing and teamwork.

Challenge your people – Human behavior is teased with routine and addiction.  We are surrounded by binge TV, apps, games, addictive behavior and the comfort of doing what we know repeatedly.  It is often our downfall.  When a new processes or technology is introduced, getting the masses to take on a new way of thinking can be the most difficult act of a leader, but a necessary one.  A great leader will continuously challenge and promote change.  Change is constant and necessary.  It is the foundation of growth.  Without it, others take over the reign and you soon become a forgotten commodity.

Be open to failure – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently said, “our company is the greatest company in the world at failure”.  A CEO of one of the largest brands on the planet was bragging about failure.  Brilliant leadership.  The ability to fail means you are willing to take risk.  If you focus on the great design and brand heavy companies; Apple, Google, McDonalds, Samsung, IBM and more, you will see a common trend:  failure.  At Google, they may test 1000 products before hitting a home run and they are okay with that.  The ability to accept and “promote” failure is a sign of great leadership, because you are putting the future in the hands of those you trust and are willing to take accountability for their risks.

Solicit Feedback – in one way or another, we all go through performance assessments.  Some formal, some informal.  Some annual, some quarterly.  They are a necessary evil, but do serve value.  A strong leader takes the next step.  He/she will constantly look to those in the heart of a project and learn from them.  Leaders cannot be in every place at every time, so they must rely on honest evaluation from their teams to help understand what changes and adjustments need to be made.

Trust your team – Trust is earned.  Trust is an element of a much greater good.  The greatest leaders will do the follow:

  • Build a team of diverse thoughts and ideas
  • Welcome open and constant feedback
  • Let teams take risks and be open to failure
  • Trust in their skills and abilities
  • Be there for advice and counsel
  • Take pride in their team’s successes
  • Reward and recognize excellence

All these things build trust.  Trust leads to loyalty.  Loyalty leads to strength of team.  A strong team drives results.


There you have it, the traits of a great leader.  Where do you stand?

Perpetual motion with broken light bulbs and glowing bulb

Perpetual motion with broken light bulbs and glowing bulb


Is your boss cool or cruel…Let us evaluate the signs


I am fortunate to have a warm and receptive boss that cares about my future and goes above and beyond to provide me with the tools and resources to gain the necessary skills to grow and work in a very satisfying environment.

With her cheerleader persona, focus on rewards and recognition and balanced workflow, she is a role model for the qualities that we look for in a “cool” boss.  On a daily basis, I witness a leader that:

  • Fosters innovation
  • Promotes strong positive behavior
  • Engages a teaming environment
  • Provides her staff with opportunities to promote leadership through project management initiatives
  • Shares in best practices and process improvement
  • Promotes strong performance through a series of monetary and non-monetary rewards
  • Acknowledges individual and group successes to the team and leadership
  • Has trust to allow the team to work independently and not micro manage responsibility and results
  • A proponent for growth and development
  • Supports your causes if you have researched them and believe in them
  • Provides the tools and resources to succeed
  • Sets measurable and challenging goals
  • Believes in the success of the team each and every day

There you have it, the attributes of a “cool” boss.


“Cool” bosses win championships, lead successful companies, mentor the future leaders of the world and at the end of the day are incredible mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends, volunteers and advocates for good.

All to often, at some point in our career we fall under the jurisdiction of the “cruel” boss.  There are many reasons we are supervised by individuals with negative energy that inhibit growth and change.  

First, we should identify the signs of a “cruel” boss:

  • Aggressive and negative in behavior and communications
  • Takes credit for the work of their subordinates
  • Does not promote or reward positive behavior and results
  • Micro manages work flow, output and daily responsibilities
  • Does not provide resources, tools or budget to promote efficient and productive output
  • Focused only on oneself and not the betterment of the team
  • Wedges barriers between team engagement
  • Finger points and pins colleague against colleague
  • Not supportive of the team goals

Many factors go into negative personality attributes affiliated with a “cruel” boss.  Some are affected by their personal life, feelings of rejection being passed up on a promotion, a history of bullying or overbearing behavior or a perception that you need to be hard and aggressive to move up the corporate ladder.

Studies have been done on backgrounds, behaviors, genders and even height on the types of people that are promoted and make the most income.  Some fields of study argue the tough and aggressive approach while others engage the collaborative and supportive approach.

Either way, more people spend time in the office environment than in their home and personal lives.  From the time we are 18-22 until we turn 65 to 70, we will be spending most of our adult lives working.  This is a statement that really needs to sink in.  A negative work environment breeds stress, health issues and an overall negative environment.  It can lead to such unhealthy behaviors as drinking, smoking or violence. This negativity will translate to the family live, personal life and interaction with strangers.


It is critical that leaders with people management abilities understand their roles and develop an approach that is positive, productive, engaging and fun.  Here is how:

  • Learn about your team.  Understand their strengths and weaknesses and partner up skills.  Understand their personalities and determine how they can co-exist in a cordial manner.
  • Spend time understanding their future goals and aspirations.  Set up measurable projects, action items and training that will get them where they want to go.
  • Promote and reward strong productive performance.  Winners win and others will follow.
  • Be fair but be supportive of their efforts even if there is a risk.
  • Let them be.  These are professionals, no matter what industry and trusting them is a big sign of support.
  • Let them become the professional they want to be.  Guide them, but let them breathe.
  • If comfortable, learn about their lives outside of work.  We are in a social engagement/networking world now.  Personal and professional lives are starting to become one.

There we have it.

There are “cool” bosses and “cruel” bosses.  The entertainment industry has taken a comical look at “cruel” bosses in film with Office Space, Horrible Bosses, Swimming with Sharks, The Devil Wears Prada and Glengarry Glen Ross, but this should not be the stance we take in the work force.

A productive team is always better than a productive person. The collective sharing of ideas, innovations and expertise will lead us forward in the business world. We need leaders that understand, support and foster a positive work environment.

Do you have a “cool” boss or a “cruel” boss?

Are you in the game? (Do You Have the Passion to Be Great)

Where is the soul?
Where is the emotional edge that grips us and reaches deep within our hidden fears and passions to ignite a flame that takes us to near heights of absolute euphoria.

Those were powerful words. That was the pure adrenaline that bleeds Red Bull from your veins and pumps your mental and physical juices. Don’t you love that rush. The feeling of anticipation right before something memorable is about to happen. Something that you will reflect on for years to come. A moment that will forever change your personal perception of life and being.

Some are fortunate to run out of a tunnel to 80,000 screaming fans, but most of us must rely on a much smaller fan base to motivate those raging instincts and bring us to the forefront.

Van Gogh and Mozart would be banished from this earthly soil before their genius was realized and now their works have donned the globe from the Louvre to Dancing with the Stars.

We are a flawed people. Not from the misfortune of a bite of an apple, but by our human nature of immediacy. We are narcissistic folk who thrives on flash reaction. We need to know that others feel something from our actions. Now, with the flood of social media, the entire world can know.

If you ask a couple that has been married for 70 years what the keys to success were that made their love last the test of time, you will find some very consistent responses. Patience, understanding and compromise. Hmmmm patience. Love takes time. Success takes practice. Legend is the immortal acceptance of triumph. That my friends is what makes phenomenal stand out from mediocrity.

How do I become phenomenal? ” I have to work, feed my family, and what little time I have left over is for rest from the daily challenges life throws at me. Life is hard.”

I think many of us have said something along these words in the past. Is you accept your place then you have settled on a life that can be legendary or fade away. The answer is simple. The true immortals make an impression on the next generation and the lessons they teach will carry over for many generations.

If you are the first man on the moon, you are immortal, but if you can teach you son to play catch and spent time with him on the swings, he will remember that as he grows up and passes these lessons onto his own children. You see, when the book of life is written, you have the potential to be as high on the ladder of greatness as Neil Armstrong, Theodore Roosevelt, and Charles Lindbergh.

So many times, we let the media dictate the value of life and it leads many to a state of depression.

Depression can suck the life out of you. It can take you to levels beyond repair without abandon or prejudice. It is a one of the most common diseases that is often overlook yet can be as deadly as the high profile bacteria and virus killers.

Eliminate the barriers that lead many to determine the value of importance. Burn the money, blind yourself from the fame and look right in front of you. You are a leader, a role model and most of all a future legend.

When you look in the baby blue eyes of a young child, ask yourself this, “Am I in the game?”