Doing the right thing is not a default position for great leaders, it is their only option. While it is important to pay attention to a person’s behavior and words, comportment alone is not enough to determine the level of his/her leadership ability. The quality of their decisions must also be part of this evaluation.

When thinking about great leaders, the image of a ballerina or an athlete comes to mind. They may speak of their craft in glowing terms and even inspire their supporting casts in wonderful ways, but it is not until you see them perform that you can determine their level of greatness.

Everyone has leadership capacity

We were all meant to lead. Doing things that create a greater good is part and parcel of that responsibility. This call to strive towards benefiting the larger community is the same whether you lead a family, a church group, a band of workers, an organization or a nation.

Nine qualities that show leaders are helping to create a better world

The following elements summarize the similarities among people who are working for this goal.

1) There is an inner knowing. No matter how hard you struggled to take action, once you have done so, there is a tremendous sense of inner peace that your efforts are for the good of the larger community. This personal knowing has no explanation other than you are certain you aligned your actions with your highest self and your most important values.

2) All involved feel inspired. When decision-making is done in an inclusive, transparent manner that contains an analysis of all possible effects. And, where love, compassion, courage, generosity and care are consistently applied, all those involved feel connected to each other by a sense of virtuousness.

3) An unspoken unity grows amongst all involved. When leaders join with others to create a greater good, a sense of trust in the goodness and integrity in the decisions grows among all involved. Such trust brings about a unity that inspires all to work together again on future challenges.

4) He/she can stand behind the consequences of their action. Great leaders are accountable for what they do. They don’t expect all to be happy with their decisions, especially when they had to choose between opposing options where each has merit. Because they rely on an inclusive and transparent decision-making process, he/she knows they made the best decision possible.

5) There is never violence involved. As singer/songwriter Sting says in his song Fragile,

“Nothing ever comes from violence and nothing ever could.” 

Under no circumstances would an enlightened leader ever consider anyone expendable or inferior as they weigh options. They know violence begets more violence. They understand that nothing good can ever be done at the expense of others. Non-violence and a respect for the inalienable rights of every human being create the environment needed for the healthy evolution of every situation. Great leaders never spew hatred or division. For them, there is no room for racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination in their actions. Nor is there ever any justification for pitting one group as superior to others. Last but not least, they never scapegoat others by making them solely responsible for perceived failures.

6) Affecting one group over another is always the last option. Willful destruction of others will only attract our own destruction. However, this does not mean that sometimes hard decisions need to be made, for example, a CEO may have to layoff some of his employees for the company it is to survive. However, the decision can be constructive and positive as long as he/she considered it as the last option and people were not sacrificed for the sake of profits or higher dividends.

7) The negative opinions of others do not influence them. One of the most important challenges of creating the greatest benefit for all is knowing your choice and actions may make you unpopular. Responsible leaders remember in their deliberations they are trying to create something better; they are not there to please others. Others may call them indecisive, gutless, ignorant, and many other monikers that slice up one’s self esteem and pierce the heart, but they realize not everyone views the world in the same way. Some see a world of winners and losers. Others from a point of self-interest and yet others as a place where everyone is out to get them. When leaders are working to create something that benefits the greater whole, they will not allow destructive points of view to rule.

8) Their actions bring about a modicum of peace. This point can be hard to prove because peace can seldom be measured. However, you can tell where peace exists when they see all involved can move forward constructively from their decision.

9) Great leaders make you feel grateful for having been a part of a great process. I consider myself very fortunate for having worked for a great leader, Colorado Governor Roy Romer. His inclusive and deliberate management style made me proud to have been a part of his administration. I know I am not alone, for many of my Romer colleagues speak as I do about the experience. Because of Romer, we knew we were doing our best work, and we believed the State of Colorado was benefiting from our effort. Until the last day of his administration, we were sure we were doing great things. This is what working for a greater good looks like.


Being a leader is more than holding a title. Just because you are a mother, father, boss, bishop or prime minister does not give you any special power to be a good leader. However, title does give you authority. This world will become a better place when everyone with authority uses it towards creating a better world where value and respect is given to every individual.

Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will reward you with feelings of joy and contentment.

Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash