The six elements of a great leader


Who is a leader in an organisation?

Who is a leader outside of work?

Who is the leader of their own life?

By the last question I have almost everyone raising their hands. So what does it mean to be a great leader, and why does it matter?

In October 2014 I heard Sir Bob Geldof speak at a conference about trust and what he said really resonated with me:

“100 years later we are back where we were, a new world struggling with an old structure that is no longer fit for purpose. If businesses want to be successful they need to be authentic, genuine and real.” 

The 20th century view of the world that Sir Bob was fuming about views organisations as machines and people as cogs in those machines. This breeds leaders who use command and control to get things done, believing they are all-powerful and that they should be looked up to. However, as a result of numerous business scandals and the financial crisis in 2008, trust in business and political leaders is at low ebb.

These self-serving leaders, willing to do anything to realise short-term financial gains, are not what is required in the 21st century. Their relentless drive for short-term profit creates a climate which puts people at risk of burn out, and fails to recognise team members as individuals.

Leaders create the climate and culture of an organisation. People naturally imitate behaviour so if you are going to enable the people in your organisation to thrive it must start with you thriving, and that success must be sustainable in all areas of your life.

As a result of my 20 years as a business leader and 13 years of coaching business leaders, I have identified six key areas that we need to pay attention to on our journey to becoming a great leader. They focus on the why and how of leadership as most leaders over focus on the what:


I believe that to become a great leader you need to know who you are as a leader and the difference you want to make through your leadership. This is about developing your personal authentic leadership brand. It helps you to understand your why.

Having a clear sense of identity means that you are authentic so people are likely to trust you, which will give you more influence and a greater ability to inspire and motivate others.


Many leaders struggle to get balance in their lives. The symptoms include working long hours, not having enough time to spend with your friends and family or just not feeling happy. By not having the time to look after yourself and stay healthy, you will not have the energy to continue to be successful at work and do all the things you want to do in your life.

This requires finding a different definition of success that enables you to be happy, healthy and successful in all areas of your life.


For you to step up as a leader you first need to trust yourself. Then you need to be able to trust others to do things on your behalf rather than trying to do everything yourself. Trust allows you to Stop Doing and Start Leading. It’s too easy to find yourself involved in the detail, doing things yourself and not empowering others, but this usually results in frustration and dissatisfaction for you and the people around you.


Task-focused leaders often spend very little time on developing their people. As a leader, you have to continue to learn and grow, and for that to be possible your people have to learn and grow too. When you create the time and space to grow and develop, it has a compound effect on you, your team and the business.


Engagement is the fifth key required to become a great leader. As a leader you have a number of stakeholders who are either interested in or affected by what you do. Building win/win relationships with these stakeholders so that everyone is successful creates long term enduring relationships, which mean sustainable success for all concerned.


Change is the one thing that is constant in our 21st century world, so all great leaders must now be able to lead through change. Change only happens successfully when the individuals involved are able to change themselves, so being able to navigate yourself and others through change is a vital skill for you to develop.

As a result of incorporating these six keys into my leadership development and coaching programs, I have experienced the joy of seeing leaders make the shift from doing to leading. When you stop doing and start leading you will be able to thrive in your own life and help your people thrive too. You will create your own ripple effect that not only impacts your organisation, but also enhances the lives of your team, your family and everyone else you come into contact with.

Stop Doing, Start Leading- How to Shift From Doing The Work Yourself To Becoming A Great Leader, by Sue Coyne is available 01 September from Amazon, priced £15.99.