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  • Writer's pictureValerie Clay

What it Takes to be a Great Leader

Updated: Aug 3

A person's perception of the world around them greatly impacts their ability to lead and stand out from the crowd.

The strength of a person's character, whether or not they practice what they preach, and their ability to empathize with others is only part of what it takes to be a strong leader.

It is estimated that only about 10 percent of the world's population are natural born leaders.

However, there is another 20% of the population that would be good at leading with the right training. The 20% are thought to be future managers.

The majority of Americans are followers.

Most people keep up with social trends. Keeping up with the Joneses is the day-to-day practice. Followers do what other people do.

Leaders, on the other hand, take charge and set the course for other people to get on a certain path.

There are only a few basic leadership styles including transformational, delegative, authoritative, transactional, and participative. The greatest of all leaders have the ability to adapt their style to fit the situation.

Good leaders have certain other traits that allow them to be good at what they do. These include integrity, openness, consciousness, extroversion, and the need for achievement.

But all of these things combined are not the most important characteristic of a leader.

The 10% of the leadership population has two irrefutable ingredients that is admired, followed, and envied. It is something that the majority of followers only wish to have or understand.


First, a world-class leader has insurmountable vision.

Beyond a leader’s style, character, or abilities is their vision. A person's perception of the world, or their vision, greatly impacts their ability to lead.

Their ability to see things that others can't see is what usually separates them from the pack. All great leaders have advanced visionary abilities where they can see what others can't see.

I will use the analogy of John and Adam to explain what vision is-

There were two men, John and Adam, headed into the woods to fish.

As they walk toward the lake, a woman approaches them to let them know the property is for sale, and was just being listed. She stops and asks them to explain what they see on the beautiful property, hoping to use some of their description in her listing.

The first man Adam says he sees nice trees, an open blue sky, and crystal clear water. He sees a nice day waiting to happen. He's geared up and fixated on fishing. He's psyched and ready to go so he continues on down the hill.

Fishing is what he is there to do, so his mind only comprehends what is right in front of him. The task at hand is what he focuses on and to him fishing is the big picture. He tells her it looks like a great place to fish as he walks away.

John, on the other hand, sees a whole different world in front of him.

He sees this place as hundreds of oxygen-producing biodiverse shades which will protect him from the sun while he fishes. From those shade trees he sees nuts, fruit, oils, vitamins, pencils, beams, fuel, lumber, corks, aspirin, acne medication, sponges, chewing gum, wax, dye, rubber and almost immeasurable products that could come from those trees.

Concerning the water he sees a fish farm, swimming lessons and jet ski rentals. Among the fields, he sees a tree nursery, fruit crops, field crops, and a dairy farm. He sees hundreds of mouths fed and lives changed from businesses that could be productive in this place.

He sees the city growing from those businesses through taxes and jobs brought in. He sees a future house sitting on the hill, a 40-acre sawmill, and rental property being built all around the water.

In other words he has vision. Unlike the other guy, who could only see what was right in front of himself.

With fishing rods in hand, John and Adam stood admiring the work of God's hands. John decides to pursue purchasing the property. He wants to preserve the beautiful part of the lake & forest and use the rest of the land as an investment. John is a take-charge and make-it-happen kind of guy.

Adam, on the other hand, is still focused on fishing for the day. He never once takes thought of anything else.

The difference between these two men is their vision. One man can’t see beyond his current circumstances. He is a follower. The other sees a world of opportunities and is always trying to find ways to better his community, start businesses, and create jobs.

A visionary is always looking for ways to help others. The truth is, we need both followers and leaders.

What if John shared his vision with Adam and got him on board? Now you have a follower and a leader ready to accomplish a vision as a team.

Life is a Team Effort

When I first met my husband, I shared my vision with him for flipping houses. He not only had the same vision, he was already in the process of doing what I wanted to do!

My husband and I now make investments together and work hard to manage them well. We both have our own skills, talents, and vision of what we want to invest in, but we work together as a team.

There is blessing in a team effort.

None of us are a one-man show. We all need help. Some of us are leaders, some followers, and some future leaders. Realizing what you're good at is the first step.

If you don't have vision, don't try to lead others. Be a follower. There's blessing in helping someone else obtain their dream or reach their goals.

If you are a leader, realizing who your people are is the next step. Who will get on board? Who will pick up your dream and run with it?

There is a calling for both leaders & followers. If you are not part of the 10% of leaders, don't try to step out of your calling.

Figure out what you're good at and focus on doing that.

If you are a leader, if you do have vision, God will bring someone suitable to help bring your vision to pass.

Habakkuk chapter 2 in the Bible says that a vision has to be shared in a way that others can understand it. The moment my husband told me he was in the middle of flipping a house, I knew we were a good match. I jumped right in as though I lived there and started helping him.

Lead at Home First

Maybe you’re not the type to lead an organization or start a business. Some visionaries lead their own families to success through investments, education, or spiritual growth.

What type of leader are you? Maybe, you’re a father or a mother. In my opinion, that is the most important kind of leader.

I wish I could get back some of those moments where I had a greater impact on my boys. I didn’t see myself as a visionary when they were young and I wasn't as much of an inspiration as I wish I'd been.

I was a single mom who struggled with health problems, financial issues caused by divorce, and the problems that come with the life of raising kids alone. I took my vision for granted because I was so geared toward just making it through the day, the month, or the next school year.

I spent years dreaming of doing bigger and better things. I saw potential for growth and productivity in nearly everything.

I didn't see furniture, houses, or cars as much as I saw business opportunities. But because I was so focused on just getting by, those dreams were hindered for many years.

In order to be a leader, you will have to learn to take your vision and run with it.

All great leaders have faith and the courage to step out and do something out of the ordinary.

If you don't believe in yourself and trust God to help you, it will never happen.

All blessings come from God but He can't use someone who refuses to see their own potential or who is afraid to step forward.

I want to be a picture of success so my husband and I step out and take chances. We make investments and God blesses our return on them.

Faith is an action word.

Take baby steps if you must but vision without action is of no profit. You have to be willing to start somewhere.

The best place to start is in learning how to manage what you already have. Become good at that and God will bless you with more.

Distraction hinders vision. Get rid of as many distractions as you can. Stop piling up debt. Stick to a budget. Start a side gig so you can make some extra income.

Focus on long-term goals and stop allowing yourself to worry about the small stuff. Manage well, stay disciplined, and be consistent.

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Look beyond the distractions.

Realize that your kids, families, organization, or business is depending on you to be a good leader. They need you to lead them because more than likely, they are followers.

Visionary leaders step forward and inspire others to come along.

If you've had a vision for some time, there may be a time of preparing yourself mentally, financially, or emotionally. But afterward taking a leap of faith is the only thing that will bring success.

It’s scary. I know. I’ve been there. But trust me, there is progress beyond that first leap.

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