The 8 Ds of Great Leaders

March 23, 2014 Business and Management 1 comment

Smiling senior Asian businessman offering handshake

Are you ready to be a Great Leader?Designed by Freepik

Leadership is something that many aspire to have but few truly achieve.

It is a long and winding road that requires special qualities which sets these extraordinary human beings from mere mortals. Often, being a leader requires courage, sacrifice and that extra “oomph”.

Anybody can be a leader, regardless of his or her position. A leader can often be found shepherding and steering groups of people working towards a common objective.

What should a great leader be and do to differentiate himself or herself from the hoi polloi?

To make it easy for you to remember and recall, let us call these the 8 Ds of Leadership.


The first and most important step in leadership is direction.

A great leader should not only have a map but a compass and intuitive navigational skills to forge the way ahead. Driven by a strong sense of mission and blessed by foresight, successful leaders are mindful of the steps that need to be taken.

A great leader should also have clarity on the final goal, even though the waters ahead may be murky.


Great leaders are highly disciplined.

They follow a strict daily regime and weekly schedule. They reduce time wasters like watching mindless television shows, reading gossip, or participating in unproductive chatter.

As there are multiple demands on their energy and time, they learn how to prioritise the “must dos”, “can dos”, and “nice to dos”.

A great leader focuses on the most important tasks first before devoting their attention to lesser matters. They know that there are many interesting and fascinating rabbit holes that they can explore, but are mindful not to expend their limited time and energies on these diversions.


When the going gets tough, great leaders keep going… and going… and going.

Of course, sticking to the course doesn’t mean that you become the Pied Piper and lead your team towards oblivion. However, it does require you to steel yourself for potential failures, rejections, and criticisms from customers, bosses (there are always bigger leaders), and other constituents.

Resilience in the midst of adversity distinguishes great leaders from average ones.


Managing people is a vital skill for leaders.

To do so effectively in this day and age, they need to have the right blend of soft and hard approaches. Here, empathy, understanding, and kindness is blended with tact, consideration and assertiveness to deliver the right message across at the right time to the right people. That means that great leaders cannot be like bulls in a china shop – even if they own the entire enterprise.


Finding the right balance of skills, personalities, characters and backgrounds is both an art and a science.

A great leader knows that recruiting a team that is largely homogenous will be a recipe for disaster in the creativity economy. She knows that diversity is a strength, and is adept at managing the creative and cultural tensions that may arise from such a combination.

Beyond hiring matters, a great leader will also explore unusual ideas, embrace uniqueness, and accept “not invented here” concepts. She does not flinch at novelty but welcomes it.


Being able to close the loop is an important character trait of great leaders. They understand that poor follow through is a recipe for disaster.

Indeed, successful leaders don’t just put in the fanfare to kick-off projects and initiatives but make it a point to complete them.

Anybody can come up with hundreds of wonderful, dazzling, and breathtaking ideas. However, being able to complete and execute well while leading a team requires something extra.


A great leader is somebody who knows how to equip and empower his subordinates so that they can do more.

The idea here is not to “arrow” a colleague to handle everything from scratch without offering any assistance whatsoever, but to equip him with the know how and resources to deliver the goods.

That’s not all.

A great leader is also aware of the capacity and bandwidth of his team members. He knows that there are times where he needs to pick up the slack and work side-by-side with his subordinates.


Finally, and most importantly, a great leader needs to develop and train his people.

Such activities needn’t take place in a formal classroom setting but can be done everyday at work. Wherever possible, a great leader would find a way to imbue new insights and build learning opportunities into the work of his team.

Ultimately, the goal over the long term is to mentor a successor who can eventually take over as a great leader.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.

One Comment

  1. Not only is this excellent advice, it is extremely well written.

    The one thing that I have observed about the best leaders I’ve worked for and with and while they are disciplined and focused they are very discerning to make sure they are not missing key priorities nor have the daily and weekly flexibility to adjust to what’s critical and I don’t mean fire fighting.

    What the worst leaders do is get themselves so fully booked that there is no time for issues and challenges that arise or to provide direction on key issues that are being developed for the board and on which the management team need guidance.

    As Henry Mintzberg’s studies of CEOs showed – that the days of executives were characterized by brevity, discontinuity and face to face interactions. Something that at the time he found a bit surprising as he felt that he might these top executives engrossed in a planning document for example but actually found that it was not as structured.

    At a P&C where I was a VP and Officer with my strategic group coordinating with finance and actuary we got pretty good at chunking these tasks for the executive and board. Our CEO would make himself available for key input times and in a day the team might have had one briefing either by me or the CEO or both of us – then produced some working financials and actuarial models – and we’d come back with the first approximation for the CEO. I was proud at how these busy top managers from across the organization worked so effectively together including their presentation at board meetings. This model would not have worked with an over scheduled CEO as the managers would have been working too long to finalize rather than go with first approximations and refine from there.

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