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How To Be A Great Leader

How To Be A Great Leader

Authenticity and trustworthiness are the defining qualities of a true leader, writes management expert Debbie Nicol.


According to Kouzes and Posner, credibility is the currency of leadership. Why is it that we feel the need to have a title to ‘deem’ us to be a leader? From sportspeople to designers, family members to colleagues, we see leadership and personal bests ‘in the moment’. We only have to think back to the breathtaking moment of tennis great Andy Roddick in 2012, when he highlighted an umpire’s error which then ruled against himself and ultimately saw the match be awarded to his opponent, yet winning him enormous amounts of credibility globally.

One thing is certain – architects have their computers, painters have their palettes and brushes, yet leaders have only themselves – credibility is up to a leader to earn, and that will only happen when the actions we take are from a place of service, consistently believable and authentic.

The letter that may change your life – and world of work

Invest a moment of your time and be ready for some reflection you are sure to gain from reading this letter from Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason (recently terminated). Consider Flatley’s final comment in an interview about courage and values. What resonated and what did not? How do you see yourself responding to the same situation of termination, or reflection upon your career success? Regardless of your answers, one thing is certain – the corporate world is changing and is demanding new terms of leadership.

• Authenticity
• Trust
• Vulnerability


Authenticity exists when a leader is consistently and effortlessly behaving in alignment with who he or she is, when people are or are not watching, in good times and bad. Authenticity is reflected in total transparency, allowing the reality to shine through, appreciating lumps and bumps as unique and special qualities.

Clearly for this to happen, a leader needs to know himself, feel comfortable to be himself and deeply commit to the value of diversity within the workplace.


Trust is a special characteristic that can’t be held tangibly but most certainly can be felt. It exists at the core, and in the words of Stephen Covey, may represent fish in the water that are invisible to the naked eye, yet with the help of a polaroid lens, can be detected clearly.

Similarly, while trust is not ‘tangible and visible’ its presence is most certainly felt and valued. On the flip side, once trust is lost, it is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to earn it back.


Vulnerability is the art of exposing elements that would otherwise remain closed or hidden, thereby increasing the chance of risk and uncertainty. Vulnerability can take us to places we wouldn’t normally dare to go, yet reward us when we do so. Admitting ‘I don’t know how to do that’ may be rewarded with ‘neither do I, so let’s find out together’.

Trust and transparency strengthen through the desire to be vulnerable, whilst personal and professional growth can prosper when vulnerability is applied in ‘evolved’ environments.

Are you a legacy-in-progress, one you can be proud of and will carry on contributing positively for years to come?

Debbie Nicol is the managing director of Dubai-based ‘business en motion’, and creator and author of the ‘embers of the world’ series.


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