The 4 Imperatives Of Great Leaders

battle-testedGreat leaders typically have a credo they live by. It is often something personal to them. Some lesson that they learned as they came up from the ranks. Some piece of wisdom that was imparted to them by a mentor. Something a parent or other family member used to say often. Perhaps it is something a famous philosopher such as Marcus Aurelius or Lao Tzu is often quoted as saying. Whatever that credo is it informs their style of management. It can make a difference in how effective they are as leaders.

Whatever credo a leader embraces there are certain imperatives that make the difference between a mediocre leader and a great leader. Following these basic imperatives allow a leader to create synergy in their organization. It allows them to have well-defined goals to meet. It allows them to foster good relationships with their subordinates. It allows them to nurture the talents of their team. While the credos that great leaders follow can come from very different places they do have a certain philosophical outlook in common. Imperatives that are hallmarks of leadership. In this article, we will look four imperatives that great leaders follow.

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Clarity of Purpose
lead-leadership-qualitiesYou can’t lead if you are not clear about your goals. Great leaders are seldom scatterbrained and incoherent. They seldom succeed if they are constantly operating on impulse and without a plan. One of the important differences between a mediocre leader and a great leader is often the quality of the plans they make. A clear set of goals can prevent problems before they ever happen.
Great leaders pass on their clarity of purpose. They have clearly defined goals that their team can work toward. Those goals are practical benchmarks that the people who work for them can meet. That clarity of purpose also goes beyond practical benchmarks. It creates a certain clearly defined culture that is embraced by everyone. That sense of purpose allows everyone in the organization to work in tandem toward success.
Inspire Trust
One of most common exercises done during team building events at conferences is a trust exercise. The so-called “trust fall” is a popular one. One person turns their back to their partner and falls back with the expectation of being caught. It is symbolic of the way a team has to work; with the expectation that they will have each other’s backs.
That trust has to start from the top. Great leaders know the importance of trusting the people who work for them. It is the mark of good leadership for two reasons. First, an atmosphere of trust creates a bond between a leader and those they lead. That is good because it makes things run smoother in an organization. Second, great leaders know they don’t have to micromanage and that they can trust their people to do their jobs. That boosts morale and encourages employees to grow in their jobs.
Unleash talent
Great leaders know the importance of talent. They are generally very talented people themselves. They have figured out how to utilize and develop their own talent. It’s part of what brings them to the top in an organization. Having developed their own talent, great leaders know the importance of developing the talents of their subordinates.
Why do great leaders take the time (and in some cases put up the money) to develop their team’s talents? They know that it benefits their business. Employees who feel that their talents are being nurtured and fully utilized are motived to work harder. They are motived to increase their skill level. That makes them more valuable employees.
Align Systems
Think for a moment about a maestro who is conducting an orchestra. Picture them standing on their podium with their baton. They are in control of the whole orchestra and the musicians respond to even the smallest flick of the baton. That is what great leaders do. They align all the people, capital and assets that they are charge of for the best results.
It can be a tricky balancing act. People don’t always work well together and it is up to the leader to ensure that they work together as well as possible. Things don’t always go right and it is up to the leader to find solutions. Great leaders, like great conductors, work to align all the systems they are in charge of make them work in harmony.[/message][su_spacer]


A great leader follows all four of the above imperatives. They understand that their role is to lead with a clear set of goals and a unifying sense of purpose. They understand that it is their job to act like an engineer who makes sure that all the parts of a machine work smoothly together. Great leaders know how important it is to create fertile environment in which their employees can thrive and develop their professional skills. They know trust is an important part of teamwork.

When you look at your leadership style ask yourself: how can you do a better job following the four imperatives of great leaders?


Andreas Jones
Andreas Jones
ANDREAS is the Founder of Combat Business Coaching, #1 Bestselling author of Business Leader Combat, marketing strategist, business growth expert, advisor, consultant and army combat veteran. Andreas works with small and medium-sized businesses and help them build meaningful businesses so that they can have more profit, fans and freedom. Service in the US Army forged Andreas’s character. It tested him, tested his endurance, faith, and internal fortitude. He describes it as “a trial by fire” and remains profoundly grateful for it. When he finally left the Army he did so with an astute understanding of self-ownership, implementing a vision, and the value in establishing trust and reputation. Jones applied all that he had learned serving his country to a series of jobs, including that of a VP at Sun Trust Bank. Each of his positions have endowed him with the type of knowledge required to start his own business and to provide a workable schematic for others to follow. Andreas has taken his hard-won Army lessons into the world of business, continuing to learn new skills and insight. Each fresh challenge, project or position has helped him grow into the individual he is today.

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  1. I also find it motivates you when you have a sound track to your credo. Mine is “Holding out for a Hero”. I then associate key aspects of what I should do based on those lyrics. Here’s a few examples.

    “Where have all the good men gone. And where are all the gods?” – There is a highly political culture that driven out good talent. We must stop it.

    “Where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?” — We need leaders at all levels – generals and soldiers and those that support them.

    “Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?” — Don’t let these leaders fight on their own. Provide them with support.

    “I need a hero” — People need help, even though they don’t ask for it. Help them feel comfortable asking for it.

    “He’s gotta be strong. And he’s gotta be fast. And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight” — Get leaders that talk less, act more, and inspire others.

  2. I like the way you’ve described leadership, and especially like the one related to the orchestra conductor. How often do we watch a conductor and wonder at the waving baton that appears to do nothing, yet without that simple motion, there would be no harmony, no tempo, and melody would be lost.

  3. My credo is stay grounded in three things at its three levels and carry that through a unified message in my communications, planning, and execution. For instance, if I’m doing something like Big Data, my three things are:
    (1) 3Vs for technical people
    (2) 3Ps for managers
    (3) 3Financials for executives

    To keep these three things connected, my unified message is planning, analysis, and assumptions.