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21 Things All Great Leaders Do

16. Push through their fears

Fear undermines so much in leadership. In this post, I outlined five ways to tell if fear is undermining your leadership.

So are great leaders fearless?

Not at all. It’s not that great leaders have no fears. They just push through them.

17. Take full responsibility

Weak leaders blame.

The best leaders take full responsibility—even when it’s not their fault.

That can be incredibly challenging to do, but great leaders have discovered that taking responsibility doesn’t cause people to blame you; it causes people to trust you.

It also causes whoever was in part responsible for the problem to want to rise to the occasion to make it right.

18. Leave people better than they found them

All leaders leave a trail.

Poor leaders will sometimes leave a trail of bodies or a trail of disappointment.

But the great leaders leave a legacy, because they leave people better than they were when they found them.

Great leaders help people become better people. The people they work with are tremendously grateful for that.

19. Call people by name

I’ve met a few fairly famous people over the last few years.

One thing that has surprised me is how they were intent on both learning my name and calling me by it.

I can only imagine how many tens of thousands of people they’ve met in their lives, but when I was with them, it was like I was the only one.

Remember and say people’s names. They’ll never forget that you did.

20. Help people who can’t help them

Selfish leaders are always building networks of people who can help them get ahead.

Truly great leaders always make time for people who can provide no direct help for them.

They take the time to talk to an intern, to hear the custodian’s stories, to come alongside the middle manager who’s frustrated.

Can you do that for everybody?

Of course not.

But just because you can’t do something for everybody doesn’t mean you can’t do it for somebody.

21. Have private relationships that reflect their public leadership

Truly great leaders don’t have a disconnect between who they are at work and who they are in life.

Too many leaders seem great at work but are disasters at home. That’s not great leadership.

Great leaders throw the same passion, skill and heart into their home life (and their faith life) as they throw into their work life.

Don’t use all your best energy at work. Save some of the very best for home.

What Do You See?

The great news, of course, is that each thing on this list is a skill or practice you and I can adopt. We can get better.

I also feel like this could be a longer list.

I’d love to know what you’ve seen truly great leaders do.  

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Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.