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The Top 3 Traits of Influential Leaders

The difference between a politician and a civil servant is the same as that between a leader and a manager:

  • A leader and politicians are concerned about keeping their jobs because they know they are in “results-oriented” positions were making and keeping commitments counts. Thus, the risk is inherent in these vocations.

  • A manager or civil servant is only concerned with making sure policy and process is maintained and thus risk is eliminated. Moderation is the hallmark of an excellent manager and thus risk is to be minimized whenever possible.

Both types of people are necessary. Without managers to keep the machinery going, there would be no industry or society for leaders to improve.

Leaders need to have dreams and strong visions of the future they want to see evolve. Leaders need the confidence and the ability to tell stories about that future, so they gain the power and opportunity to achieve it.

The difference between a leader and a manager is that the latter is risk averse and the former knows that risk is a critical element to success and growth.

Leaders start to change; managers are reluctant to change.

Change is risk-taking.

Effective change is built on seeing the future, planning to achieve the future, and then winning the support of others to help achieve these aspirations.

Great leaders have always looked outside for new opportunities to improve lifestyles and new resources to use. They have learned to build on the experience of others, and somewhere in the process, they have had to decide to commit to taking risks.

Earlier in the book, the phrase “You can’t score on the shot you don’t take” was used. Risk takers know the game. Calculated risk-takers know the opposition, know the skill sets of their fellow teammates and know that commitment to a full effort is the only way to advance the ball.

Many people will argue that Winston Churchill was the greatest leader of the twentieth century, and he was a superb crisis leader. “We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them in the air, we will fight them in the streets, we will never surrender.” He planned to win (even when the odds were against him); he could articulate the risk and the reward. Churchill knew the cost of failure and he rallied the nations to support his effort. He gained the confidence of stakeholders (like Roosevelt) who put their own careers at risk to sustain Churchill’s will to win.

Leaders take calculated risks; they become like test pilots and Formula One drivers. They practice their skills, know the edges of their performance envelope and take calculated risks by stretching the edges. These supposedly fearless individuals never overly push their equipment to points outside its perceived operating capabilities. Both groups and the technologies associated with their industries have served to improve the safety of planes and cars.

Fewer test pilots and racers are dying today because they know that although surviving foolish risks may give bragging rights, taking calculated risks improves technologies, safety and fortunes. What is the good of fortune if you are not around to enjoy it? You have to push to earn, but you have to do something rash, unreasonable or foolish to lose it.

In the end, you will minimize risk if you follow a problem-solving model and follow it as zealously as a pilot does a checklist or a golfer does a pre-shot routine.

Great leaders plan their work and work their plan.

A great leader has taken the time to identify as many risk points as possible and that leader has motivated his team to work on solutions for those risk points. Churchill got equipment from Roosevelt and the United States, who were supposed to be neutral, by using the Lend/Lease Deal. Great leaders look for creative ways to solve problems and convince other stakeholders that risk is vital to success.

A great leader will not ask someone to take a foolish risk and a great leader will be there when a risk is taken. A great leader ensures that those who have to commit to a risky venture are rewarded for their efforts. Great leaders:

  • Believe that when things go wrong, it is their responsibility; they never scapegoat.

  • Say “We did it” when things go right and share the credit.

  • Will publicly and loudly praise the efforts of everyone who contributed when their goals are achieved.

When the Battle of Britain ended, Churchill, who had convinced the US to supply equipment when they should not have, asked young men to fly against odds that were stacked against them (by sheer numbers and skill), never left the battlefront of London, and was omnipresent in building morale, said, “Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few.”

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