The ABCD of Leadership

Being a leader is a complex blend of being able to inspire others, instil trust, and ensure accountability, just to name a few. But what are the traits you need to embrace or develop in order to be a great leader?

The A's:

There’s a reason why this one is first. A brand can’t survive without being authentic, and neither can a leader. You have to believe in what you say yourself, and you have to fully believe in why you are in your role. If you expect others to challenge themselves on a daily basis, make sure you show them that you are focused on continual growth and development in your own role.


What happens in your organisation when someone doesn’t complete a task by the deadline or doesn’t turn up to an important meeting? Some leaders shrug their shoulders in defeat, and move on. This is accepting mediocrity. Good leaders are clear on when expectations are not met – then there are consequences.

The B's:
Better questions

Your people are there for a reason; to support you in what you need to achieve for the business. Your role is to clear any blockages to their ability to do this. Their role is to find the right solution and answers. Quite simply, that means that you need to ask the questions, not find the answers. Pose the question and the challenge and your team will thrive on delivering the answers for you.


Balance and moderation in all things. Balance of diversity, workload, information and work-life.

The C's:

The ability to raise issues in a direct, but safe and caring way, is a difficult behaviour to master. Some leaders sugar coat it so much that the real intention behind the conversation is lost, others approach hard conversations in a brusque approach that gets people’s back up before the first sentence is finished. Instead, approaching conversations around room for improvement, or even communication consequences, should be held in a safe and open way that encourages feedback and questions, without leaving any doubt about the message being delivered.


All inventions, from electricity through to the iPhone, were born of creativity. Not all of us are the next Steve Jobs, but leaders who don’t embrace and encourage innovation, are doing themselves a disservice. Even if you’re not in a role where you can directly influence product or marketing, unleash the team’s creativity by asking people to share creative examples around process and systems not just products.

The D's:

Many leaders think they are great at coaching. They sit down with their team and tell them what they need to do and how to do it. Stop. This creates people who can’t figure out the steps needed to get to an outcome. A far more effective approach is providing direction and showing others how they can think their way through the problem. Once they’ve nutted it out, they will be able to do it themselves the next time, even if it is a slightly different task. Part of this is growing someone’s confidence through giving them the opportunity to challenge themselves, and then providing praise and recognition when they succeed.

Demonstrating the right behaviour

If you expect people to behave or work in a certain way, you need to hold yourself as an example. When there’s an urgent deadline and your team needs to work late one night, are you out the door at 5pm or are you there with them until 8pm, helping out in whatever way possible, whether it’s packing boxes or printing brochures. Leadership starts from the top down and if people know that you’re there for them, pitching in, you’ve just gained loyal followers.

The E's:

The modern meeting is too easy to set up. Add a few names by email, find a meeting room and suddenly you’ve invited a dozen people. Take stock for a moment and ask yourself whether this hour long commitment needs to be a meeting. Meetings are there for a reason – to set goals and next steps. If you leave a meeting with no idea why you were there, or you were taken through a document that you could have read in your own time, it’s time to ask yourself whether taking up 12 people’s time for an hour is the most effective use of their time.


Energy is infectious and it is also one of the greatest paths to becoming a charismatic and inspirational leader. If you’re not passionate about the industry, the organisation and your role in it, your team won’t believe it either.

Whether you’re a natural leader, or have to work at it, applying the behaviours above will enhance your leadership skills and help you to encourage, inspire and lead a high performing team.

Author: Peter Robinson
Team Leadership Services