The One Thing Great Leaders Have in Common

In my coaching work, one truth remains constant: Great leaders are self-aware. This is backed up by the Center for Creative Leadership’s research: “Self-awareness is one of the critical leadership skills for ongoing and long-term effectiveness as a leader.” Self-awareness separates great leaders from good leaders and is often used to identify high potential leaders.

Why is it important? For one thing, you need to understand your strengths, how others on your team complement your strengths, and how to fill any gaps you may have. Secondly, it’s important to explore and understand how your leadership style impacts others.

Great leaders understand that their primary purpose is to motivate others; provide information, direction, or support; and make others successful. In other words, great leaders are self-aware, not self-centered. It’s never about you!

One of the best times to observe leadership impact is during a crisis. You can learn from both positive and negative examples. Here are three leaders that, in my opinion, are serving as role models right now locally and globally. They’re self-aware and making a positive impact on others.

  1. LMD President (and my boss) Karen Killian has been very supportive, communicative, and decisive. Early in the pandemic, she led an effort to give back to the community, demonstrating selflessness by calling the local fire department and asking what they needed during this difficult time. When they requested meals, masks, and hand sanitizer, Karen mobilized our team to deliver. That kind of leadership is very inspiring.
  2. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has been a reliable source of information and is serving all of his constituents well with quick action. He is calm, communicative, and composed. Most importantly, politics are not part of his agenda. This type of leadership in a crisis is what helps all of us cope, knowing that we have someone looking out for our best interests.

  3. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been the subject of many leadership stories recently, with The Atlantic calling her the most “effective leader on the planet.” She takes decisive action and is known for her empathetic approach. I have an American friend who is sheltering in New Zealand after a bucket-list vacation in February. She reports to me daily that Jacinda’s consistent and clear communication keep her going.

The Center for Creative Leadership is a great resource to learn more about boosting your self-awareness. Or contact LMD to find out how LMD’s coaching and consulting services can help your organization’s leaders develop self-awareness.

VP, Client & Consulting Services


As Vice President of Consulting & Client Services, Holly brings almost three decades of federal, global, and corporate experience to LMD. She uses her expertise in behavioral science to improve organizational outcomes with a specific emphasis on marketing, branding, outreach, and...Read more