What Makes an Exceptional Leader and How to Become One


It’s common to think that a powerful leader was born that way or they were naturally drawn to it. But, that’s not necessarily the case.

MIlitary leader.
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Leaders are everywhere. Some come in the form of great parents, teachers, coaches, or dedicated employees. They encourage people and guide them to a better life or to achieve a goal.

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”

—Warren Bennis

You might be a leader and not know it

Coach leader.
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Even if it doesn’t feel like you’re improving the world, you very well could be. A simple encouraging word can spark the imagination of a small child. Then they could grow up to do incredible things.

Your smile can make a stranger realize that the world isn’t all bad or that it’s going to be okay. Or you might inspire people when they see your dedication and work ethic.

Leaders come in many varieties

Leaders come in many varieties.
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There isn’t a specific age, race, or gender that defines a leader. So, never think that you can’t lead others.

Here are some examples of world-changing leaders:

1. Queen Elizabeth I

Photo by David Jakab from Pexels
Photo by David Jakab from Pexels

“In the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all…”

Queen Elizabeth I

When you have an entire era named after you, then it’s safe to say you made an impact on the world. Queen Elizabeth I, (my 1st cousin 17x removed) was one of the greatest English monarchs of all time. She was remarkably intelligent. By the time she was 12, she was translating Greek and Roman philosophers’ works into English.

As Queen, her forces defeated the Spanish, crushing their attempts to invade England. She encouraged exploration and artistic expression. As a result, mankind’s knowledge, and creativity flourished.

2. Harriet Tubman

Niagara Falls.
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“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

— Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was an incredibly tenacious woman with unflinching courage. She saved about 70 people from slavery in 13 separate dangerous missions. Not only did she lead slaves on foot from Maryland to Pennsylvania, an impressive 116 miles, but also to Canada.

She also led slaves to freedom in Canada. But, they first had to risk crossing a suspension bridge over the raging waters of Niagara Falls. Which is one reason why a gun came in handy to ensure no one would back down and they’d all make it the other side.

3. Sir Winston Churchill

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”

— Winston Churchill

Churchill’s magnetic personality and sense of humor drew people to him. He shaped the Allied strategy for WWII and his passion inspired many to admire him. During the Second World War, Winston Churchill led England to victory over the Nazis. AfterWARD, he served in the national army, in 1958, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

4. Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi was the leader of a peaceful movement.
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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi led a peaceful, civil rights movement to free India. At just 5’5″ and 90 lbs, he still commanded respect with his non-violence message. He inspired people all over the world.

5. Mother Teresa

Photo by Julia Volk from Pexels
Photo by Julia Volk from Pexels

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”

— Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa, born in 1910, left a lasting mark on mankind. Her dedication to helping those in poverty earned her a place among the world’s greatest leaders. Her many supporters contributed to opening much-needed orphanages and clinics across the world. As a result, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in fighting poverty.

But, you don’t have to do anything as epic as the above people to be considered a leader. In fact, you may be an excellent one right now!

What qualities make an inspiring leader?

leader qualities.
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Great visionaries are focused on benefiting their people, not themselves. They are courageous, passionate, and charismatic. These attributes are admirable and draw people to follow their lead.

Luckily, anyone can develop the following qualities of an exceptional leader.

1. A great leader speaks the truth, even if it’s difficult.

A great leader speaks the truth, even if it's difficult.
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“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

— Arnold Glasow

They’re honest and open with others about what’s going on with the company or group.

Whereas terrible leaders hide information if it makes them look bad. Thus, hurting the team as a whole because no one knew they needed to fix the problem.

2. They are strategic planners

A good leader can plan.
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“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”

—Stephen Covey

In order to accomplish great feats, there must be an intelligent path to get there. That’s why the person in power needs to be a strategic planner. The end result is beneficial to their followers.

3. They’re passionate about what they do.

A powerful leader is passionate about what they do.
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“To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way.”

— Pat Riley

Great innovators are experts in their field because they’re passionate about it. They’re obsessed with finding the best method they can use to accomplish goals for their group.

4. They encourage others

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of others.
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“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

— Sam Walton

Top leaders build up their people’s confidence so they believe in their abilities. As a result, their supporters are fired up and excited to do their best work.

The entire group reaps the benefits of having an outstanding person leading the way.

5. They have an optimistic outlook

Smiling leader.
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“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.”

— Brian Tracy

Exceptional leaders often have a positive outlook but they don’t conceal issues from the public. They focus on solutions instead of complaining about the problems. Their “can do” attitude motivates everyone to work together to create powerful change.

6. A leader is respectful

A leader is respectful.
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“Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.”

— Bill Bradley

Top leaders treat people with respect. If workers are treated badly they won’t strive to do their best. Without everyone working towards a common goal, the system fails.

Just because someone is running a corporation, doesn’t mean they can treat everyone like trash. After all, the employees actually maintain and run everything for the business.

7. They’re grateful

Great leaders are grateful.
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“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

— Max DePree

A leader is nothing without their followers. So, they know it’s essential to tell them how much they’re appreciated. This encourages and inspires everyone to work hard.

8. Great leaders are always learning

Great leaders are always learning.
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“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

— John F. Kennedy

A high-performer knows that there’s always something more they can learn that will benefit their followers. That’s why they’re are lifelong learners because there’s always something valuable to learn. Their team can trust that the chief-in-command knows exactly what they’re doing.

8. They have self-awareness

Self-aware female leader.
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“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

— Abraham Lincoln

It’s paramount that a leader has self-awareness so they know who they are and what they need to work on as well.

At times, a narcissistic person will get into power and ignore any flaws in themselves and the organization, leading to their ultimate demise.

Watch out for the signs of a destructive leader

A destructive leader.
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“He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.”

— Aristotle

Unfortunately, there are times when the wrong person gets into power. They lack the integrity and morals needed to bring businesses or countries success.

These people are arrogant and irresponsible risk-takers that jeopardize everyone involved. They refuse to listen to advice or constructive criticism because they think they’re perfect in every way.

Eventually, the truth will reveal itself and the corruption is put to an end. But, it can all be avoided if people keep a watchful eye on those in charge and avoid falling into the trap of confirmation bias.

What kind of leader are you?

A woman leader.
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“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

—John Quincy Adams

You can find out what kind of leader you are by taking this leadership quiz so you know what to use and what to improve.

A leader teaching others.
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

In short, we can all be a leader and change lives. So, never give up your values and be respectful to all people. As a result, they’ll respect you and want to help you.

Keep showing up every day dedicated to doing your best because you never know who is watching. You might inadvertently inspire them to do great things.

Also, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to Motivated Progress so you get future weekly posts!

Share your thoughts about being a leader in the comments.

Share your thoughts!