The Makings of A Great Leader

By Andrew Grant

Is there a set model of a leader? (…especially a leader for a multinational company?)

In working with a wide range of companies at all levels I have spent a great deal of time asking the same question and looking for a profile that describes an ideal CEO. My conclusion is that passion, integrity, insight and the ability to understand and manage people are some common attributes, but there is no set profile.

There are many models that look at people’s personalities and behaviours, all of which have strengths and limitations. I feel that DiSC is one of the best, as it works on the principle that people behave a certain way in the context of particular environments. Most of us over the years, however, do have or develop a default position or a natural tendency to behave a certain way in most environments.

More important than trying to find the right profile or label for a leader is for each of us to know what our natural tendencies are and be aware of our weaknesses and strengths so we can gather around a team of people that complement our style. To take this up a notch, a good leader is able to see the big picture and recognise the most appropriate environments and behaviours that will bring out the strengths in the team.

As leaders I believe we are responsible for creating the environment in which our teams can work to the best of their ability, and we can only do that when we recognise that each of us is different and we each respond differently to situations. If we choose to be task orientated because we have made a conscious decision to due to the circumstances, that can be a wise move. However, if we are task orientated because we know no other way, we will limit ourselves too much and often act inappropriately according to the outcomes we are trying to achieve.

What makes great leaders and a high performance work team?

1970s model

What makes great leaders and a high performance work team?

2000 model

We are responsible for achieving results, but those results will be dictated by how well we can get our team to perform. Their performance can be at any level from what Peter Senge calls “skilled incompetence” through to efficient high performance depending on how we manage them.

To tie this into the corporate world, and after talking with people after a session, it seemed helpful for many people to know that each of their clients will behave differently depending on their perception of the environment.


  • One person, having discovered that he was very dominant, wanted to know how to deal with another dominant person on his team in a project as they both had very different ideas as to how to best achieve the outcomes and neither was prepared to back down.
  • Another said that since their company has a reputation for charging a lot (and being able to deliver) that they often end up with dominant clients with very high expectations, and seeing the DiSC model was very helpful.
  • One believed that the their company environment created very task orientated people, and those that couldn’t cope left. In some cases this was an unnecessary loss of talent and created an imbalance in workteams, leaving an attitude in some of “get in … make money … get out” with no time for people. This attitude, if detected by clients, could be counterproductive.

A Quick Quiz

End Quote:

“CEOs have to surround themselves with people of diverse talents. That is not easy to do. It’s human nature to place the highest value on our own talents and dismiss those that are not like our own. Someone else is "just a bean counter" or, conversely, "all talk." It’s particularly tempting for CEOs to make such judgments. After all, they are in charge, so their particular skills must be the critical ones.

Moreover, most of us prefer the reassuring company of people like ourselves, who approach problems the way we do, who speak the same language. We want to be around people who make us comfortable. This is a luxury today’s CEOs cannot afford. They should deliberately seek out people whose different motivations help provide balance when the company is buffeted by waves of change.

"The command-and-control leadership that sustained a company in the past will not work anymore. What’s needed now is leadership that is flexible enough to deal with a series of crises, each one different from the one that preceded it."

Source: Alistair G. Robertson Andersen Consulting Organization & Change Strategy Cross Market Unit


© Andrew Grant


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