What makes a leader successful?
Are leaders born or made?
What makes a good leader — great?

Those were the questions I pondered while reading.

Leadership in Turbulent Times by Pulitzer Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Doris teaches us by weaving stories from the journeys of four great Presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) and Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ).

What makes a leader successful?

FDR says are two kinds of success in the world:

The first category is someone with a natural talent and an ability that no matter how hard you want to emulate – you won’t be able to. Think Keats writing a memorable poem, or a natural born runner like Usain Bolt.

Most success happens in the second category. (I belong in this category). These are people who develop ordinary qualities to an extraordinary degree through hard and consistent work.

Success happens when you give every effort to the work you’re doing consistently.

Are leaders born or made?

We first need to define the eight consistent traits of a leader.

  1. Humility
  2. Empathy
  3. Resilience
  4. Self-awareness
  5. Self-reflection
  6. Master team builder
  7. Master storyteller
  8. Ambition for the greater good

More important than IQ is EQ: Emotional Intelligence.

The best leaders are the ones who possess human skills.

Each of the four Presidents had natural skills but they all weren’t born with all eight.

Abraham Lincoln was an incredible storyteller.
Franklin D Roosevelt was an irrepressible optimist.
LBJ had unbounded energy.

Through reflection, adversity and tribulation they refined and challenged themselves until they possessed all of the skills listed above.

How do good leaders become great?

Ambition for the greater good.

Ambition sometimes is wrongly understood, that it might seem like a bad thing.
Ambition is the drive for success.

It’s absolutely essential for success in any field.

The real question is, will your ambition grow so that you want to use your talents to make a difference in one person’s life, or a million people’s lives?

That’s when a good leader becomes a great leader.

What do you think makes a great leader? What skills do you want to hone?