Becoming a leader – part 2

A guest post by Gerard Smith, leadership author

As discussed in Part 1, the core characteristics of great, reputable and sustainable leaders are the following:

  • Honesty
  • Vision
  • Competency
  • Inspirational
  • Intelligence
  • Principles
  • Honour
  • Valour
  • Courage
  • Humility

In part 1 we discussed the Honesty, Vision, Competence, Inspirational attributes of leadership.  We continue in part 2 with a discussion of the remaining leadership characteristics.


Intelligence is a lifelong pursuit. There is no way to develop intelligence and sustain it without a serious allotment of time. According to Kouzes and Posner, authors of the Leadership Challenge, “Much of what is taught in college functions merely as a foundational language for lifelong educational experiences.”

Intelligence is acquired through the leader’s commitment to formal and informal learning on a continuing basis. If an individual reads 30 minutes per day, he or she is acquiring 182 hours of intelligence a year. With today’s online education and training courses and brick and mortar consultancies, most effective leaders continually find ways to increase their intelligence.

Great leaders do not have to display their intelligence to boost their persona. “If you build it, they will come.” Humility is one of the best indicators of intelligence. The ability to listen, ask insightful questions, provide concise responses and be energetic about a number of topics are all strong leadership qualities that are based upon intelligence exudes. Leading people to understand your points is another demonstration of intelligence. It is not always what you know but it is always how you express your knowledge that reflects your intelligence.


Leaders follow their own personal and professional code. When they waiver from these core principles, bad things happen. Good leaders develop these principles over time and through experience but every leader should begin by identifying their code of conduct and then subscribe to it. Without these core principles, you are merely sticking a finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. Lead through your code.


Leaders who act with integrity survive the test of time as do the institutions and organizations that they lead. There is an overall decay in the political systems of the world because of the erosion of this precious leadership quality. This is a quality that too few leaders talk about but which employees and followers always critique. An honourable leader with integrity can make honest mistakes or survive unexpected risk factors because the subscribers will rally to go the extra distance to correct the situation. We have all seen this. We have also seen the opposite effect.


Merriam Webster defines valour as; “Strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness: personal bravery.” Valour is a powerful word that the greatest leaders possess. In many cases, valour is acquired through experience. Valour emanates in self-confidence and is evident in body language, communication, direction and character. Followers and even adversaries respect valour in a leader. It is an empowering trait that is necessary to brave the new world.


Personal courage is not a lack of fear. Courage is the ability to act in the face of fear. Merriam Webster defines courage as: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Courage is most often the result of commitment and passion. If one asks a courageous war veteran why he or she did the things they do, they most often answer that, “It was their responsibility.” Effective leaders must have a strong sense of personal courage that eliminates doubt and allows the organization to move forward and overcome setbacks. With courage comes versatility.


“The quality or state of being humble” is one of an effective leader’s most empowering attributes. Effective leaders do not need to espouse their success. Others will do that. Great leaders never think the job is complete. After achieving one goal, they are off to meet the next challenge. Leaders realize that every accomplishment is one step in a long ladder of goals.

Bob Bradley

Bob is a specialist in running high value added service businesses, having run five such businesses as General Manager, Managing Director or Chief Executive. His last employed role was as Chief Executive of a £16M, 200 person family owned business having previously been Chief Executive of an AIM listed company for which he raised £5M funding and which he grew from £4M to £12M in three years through two acquisitions and organic growth, and a corporate PLC subsidiary where he was Managing Director responsible for delivering £10M profit on £45M turnover through 450 staff.

Bob is now following a portfolio career providing entrepreneurial business leaders with mentoring and coaching around business leadership, business growth, merger integration and exit planning.

Core to his portfolio is MD2MD. Having experienced for himself the value of having a strong sounding board of fellow Managing Directors he founded MD2MD in 2004 to provide groups of business leaders with a confidential environment within which they can support and challenge each other to raise their game as leaders and by doing so improve the success of their organisation.

More about Bob

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