A leader, our kingdom, country and world for a leader

I won’t tell you whether I am a skeptic or a cynic, but I will tell you that I have a deep ache to trust and believe in a President. That is because not trusting or believing in anyone or anything may prevent me from feeling disappointed or deceived, but it also prevents me from feeling hopeful or optimistic. And for me that is too big a price to pay.

As an executive coach for nearly twenty years specializing in leadership development, I have tried to distill the qualities that not only make for a great leader, but for someone I could trust and believe in and much more.

This is continuing to be a work in progress.

Please weigh in and edit and/or make additions/subtractions.

What makes a great leader to me is that he or she engender in others the following feelings:

  1. Trust: We trust him or her to do what they say they’ll do.
  2. Confidence: We feel confidence in them because they have a track record of making good judgment calls and decisions, getting things done, and that they can and will get things done when in their leadership position.
  3. Safety: We feel safe with them at the top and that under their watch, nobody will be bullied, thrown under the bus and we are not afraid to work for them because of their personality.
  4. Respect: We respect them for their integrity and standing for and standing up for a noble mission and for standing up against greedy, devious, selfish or self-serving people who attempt to detract, distract or derail them from fulfilling their mission.
  5. Admiration: We admire them for how they stand for and stand up against anything or anyone that would detract from, distract from or derail that mission. They have an understated formidability that radiates from them without their having to beat their chests or resort to gratuitous and injurious hyperbole.
  6. Likability: We like them for being enjoyable and enjoying of others, for having a sense of humor and not taking themselves too seriously.
  7. Inspiration: We are inspired by them because of having all of the prior attributes and because they both motivate, pump us up and inspire and lift us up. They give us hope.

If you disagree with the above, how much would you want to follow a leader who triggers distrust instead of trust, doubt instead of confidence, fear instead of safety, disappointment instead of respect, embarrassment instead of admiration, and discouragement instead of inspiration?

To quote Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” especially when you offend, insult, degrade or humiliate them.

How do we recognize leaders that cause us to feel the above seven feelings? What would cause me to feel those feelings is when I observe the following seven consistent behavioral attributes:

  1. Unflappable: They are quietly formidable and mission centric vs. having personal ego invested in or losing. That mission has to serve all the people they represent. By not ever taking anything personally because they are so mission centric, they never need to act defensively, sullen or reactive in any way.
  2. Present: They communicate heartfelt understanding and are compassionate towards the fear, hurt, insecurity and anger of others so that people feel cared about. However, they remain steadfast in accomplishing the main mission and are able to respectfully but deftly deal with anyone whose personal and selfish agenda might derail that commitment.
  3. Takes charge: Without being controlling they take charge which is based on deeply held values and because of that, people are not afraid of each other.
  4. Knowledgeable: They know what they’re talking about vs. giving pat answers that lack conviction or credibility or worse, shooting from the hip.
  5. Wise: They know what’s important and worth fighting for and what’s less important and not worth fighting for. Their judgment calls and decisions are guided by that wisdom based on experience, knowledge and perspective.
  6. Gracious: They always give credit first to the team that made it happen and always personally take responsibility when something backfires on their watch.
  7. Humble: They are humble by feeling honored, dedicated and duty bound by the responsibility of fulfilling a mission that serves the entire country and the responsibility for being the leader of the Free World. They are aspirational – always striving to become even better – rather than personally ambitious – always looking out for what’s personally in it for them. You’d be hard pressed to find any of this contaminated by selfish, self-serving ego. They appear to be driven by a calling rather than a personal agenda.

As with the seven prior feelings, if you don’t think these behavioral attributes are important, consider what they do to your trust, confidence, respect, admiration, liking and feeling Inspired when you see someone being thin skinned instead of unflappable, shut down or attacking instead of being present, abdicating their authority instead of taking charge, full of hot air instead of knowledgeable, foolish/clueless instead of being wise, gloating/mean spirited instead of gracious or self-centered/arrogant instead of humble.

You might say that we’re talking about leadership unicorns to be a 7×7 leader.

But they are out there and let us all hope that our next President embodies all of the above.

What do you think?


  • Mark Goulston, M.D.

    Author, speaker, podcast host, psychiatrist

    Dr. Mark Goulston is the inventor and developer of Surgical Empathy an approach that helps people to break their attachments to counterproductive modes of functioning and frees them to connect with more productive and healthier alternatives. He is the host of the “My Wakeup Call” podcast where he interviews people on the wakeup calls that changed who they are and made them better human beings and at being human and the host of the LinkedIn Live show, "No Strings Attached." He is a Founding Member of the Newsweek Expert Forum. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on deep listening, radical empathy and real influence with his book, “Just Listen,” becoming the top book on listening in the world, translated into twenty languages and a topic he speaks and teaches globally. He is an advisor, coach, mentor and confidante to CEO’s, founders and entrepreneurs helping them to unlock all their internal blocks to achieving success, fulfillment and happiness. Originally a UCLA professor of psychiatry and crisis psychiatrist for over 25 years, and former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer, Dr. Goulston's expertise has been forged and proven in the crucible of real-life, high stakes situations including being a boots on the ground suicide prevention specialist and serving as an advisor in the OJ Simpson criminal trial. Including, “Just Listen,” he is the author or co-author of nine books with multiple best sellers. He writes or contributes to Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, Biz Journals, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Psychology Today and has appeared as an psychological expert in the media including: CNN, Headline News, msNBC, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, Psychology Today and was the subject of a PBS special. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, California.