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The Number One Trait of a Great Leader

I recently watched a lecture by the great Simon Sinek, whom I discovered years ago whilst stumbling upon his famous TED talk. Sinek’s recent book entitled Leaders Eat Last takes a markedly basic approach to leadership by highlighting guttural human psychology for the makings of a great leader. His recent lecture focused on the traits of great leaders and how they can foster their employees’ development and responsibility in order to make an organization thrive.

What is the number one trait Sinek cites as a mark of great leadership? Honesty.


Telling the truth leads to integrity, and this is essential for a great leader.

Many of you may know of a person in power who doesn’t necessarily seem trustworthy or honest- that person is not a leader. That person, is an authorative figure who may have a title which ranks higher than ours but in a time of crisis or uncertainty (which is bound to happen at some point) we will not follow them and they will not lead.

The reason for this, is that honesty and integrity fosters trust. If we see someone senior to us waving off a call and whispering I’m not here to her secretary, we receive a small signal of dishonesty. These small and seemingly insignificant interactions build, and our human instinct will alert us to move away from trusting this person. We begin to question their honesty toward us as well. Did my boss truly go up the ladder to promote my raise like he said? Is this deadline truly critical or is he just staying that? If the company falls upon hard times, employees will naturally fall to protect themselves, their jobs, their roles.

But, if the opposite happens and a leader is candid and truthful in her interactions then a trust will be built. With that sense of trust comes a sense of safety for the employees. When hard times come, employees will trust that their leader will do all they can to protect them and the employees will rally their might to work hard together in order to help the leader toward the goal. When you take away the fear of dishonesty, you remove the fear of losing one’s job. And when the fear of losing one’s job is removed, the employee can focus on doing excellent work.

Great leaders make people feel safe. And when people feel safe, they can be led because they trust that the leader will serve them well and put their interests above all else.

It should be noted that leaders can emerge in all positions and all levels. You can take steps toward becoming a leader to others simply by approaching your life with honesty and integrity- and others will naturally follow.

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