What it really means to be a strong leader


Confident businessman standing against chalkboard with strong man sketch. Leadership concept

For many, a “strong leader” may equate to tough, forceful, and powerful. Although there are situations that call for this kind of leadership, there are a select (and few) times when these qualities are necessary.

Strong leaders are needed in our world and our organizations, and their strengths should shine through in the way they:

Put people first: Strong leaders know that their ability to make a difference and impact the bottom line depends on the people who do the work. They readily build others up while knowing that those efforts also impact profitability. They give people the autonomy they deserve to do their job well, and coach them through the mistakes that will inevitably happen. Strong leaders don’t take credit for the work that others do; they humbly deflect praise back to those who deserve it. They care about the people who work for them and let them know in their actions.

Lift all employees up to be stronger: Strong leaders know without a doubt that the even the struggling individuals on their team have untapped potential. These leaders are able to help all employees to be more, do more, and feel good about it. They try their darnedest to find that sweet spot that will lift employees up to be at their best  before they consider any other options. They develop, coach, and let their teams know what they are doing well, and gently but firmly guide them when they veer off course.

Make tough decisions with input: Strong leaders can make tough decisions, but get input from those impacted first. They are intentional about how they include others- whether it’s a collaborative decision that needs to be made by the team or one that requires gathering input from others before the leader makes the final decision. Whenever possible, team members and stakeholders who are directly affected by a potential decision are deliberately consulted before a final decision is made.

Tell it like it is with care: Strong leaders say what needs to be said in a direct and straight-forward manner while saying it with care (and often kindness). They don’t make their message personal by tearing people down. Name calling and blaming have no part in the messages that a strong leader delivers. They listen to any opposition and are willing to change their mind or apologize when they are wrong.

Strong leaders aren’t forceful and controlling. They lead people well, which means they must gain their trust and respect by putting them first, lifting them up, making decisions together and being direct with care.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.