The Two Qualities of True Leaders We Follow

The Two Qualities of True Leaders We Follow

Have you ever wondered what qualities are most important if you want to be a leader that people follow? My good friend Jim Kouzes has been asking people around the world for several decades why they follow their chosen leaders. Not surprisingly, the two most highly rated qualities are honesty and inspiration. Honesty is bigger than just telling the truth, it is about being trustworthy. If you think about it, people connect with leaders because they trust them, admire them, and feel inspired by their vision. In the business world, this means we identify with our leader’s drive to create something good to serve our customers and fill a need in society.

What is Trust?

Trust is being a straight shooter. It is telling the truth and standing up for the truth against opposition. Being trustworthy means showing people what you stand for and what your values are, by living them. It means asking and inviting people to hold you accountable to your word. It means having a positive mindset because people trust leaders who believe in them.

Ask yourself this: Do people know what I stand for? Do they know what I expect of myself as a leader? Do I speak positively about others? Do I walk my talk?

Are you Inspiring?

In my talks and coaching conversations, I share research that leaders who create vision are able to drive their teams towards engagement, commitment and results. Simply being a good manager is not a very good predictor of these things. What people want is a leader who truly inspires them to see how their role matters. People need to find purpose in their work and once they understand how their contribution impacts their colleagues and customers, this opens the opportunity to create an authentic vision of greatness, where they see the contribution they make to society.

Ask yourself: Do I consistently communicate the real purpose of our work- focusing on the positive difference we make for customers and society? Do I have a vision of greatness- an authentic idea of how we are different because we make the world better?

Today I want to talk about the qualities of trust and inspiration in a man who truly demonstrated them through his life and career.

A great leader died two weeks ago

His name was John Bogle who founded The Vanguard Group, the second largest manager of money in the world. I met John Bogle, known as Jack, shortly after I wrote my first book Awakening Corporate Soul, in 1994. Within five minutes of meeting him I knew he was the real thing and I knew he had a palpable purpose.

Jack was an authentic, honest, straight shooter and he inspired a financial revolution by popularizing the Exchange Traded Fund, a marketable security which allowed the average investor to maintain a diversified portfolio with low fees. He believed that investors had been getting the short end of the stick and wanted to change that, and he did! His simple vision was to take a stand for all investors, to treat them fairly, and to give them the best chance for investment success.

If you are looking for advice on how to be a great leader of character, look no further than John Bogle’s advice to Georgetown University in the 2007 Commencement Address:

“There are never enough citizens with determined hearts, courageous character, intelligent minds, and idealistic souls to do it. Yes, our world already has quite enough guns, political platitudes, arrogance, disingenuousness, self-interest, snobbishness, superficiality, war, and the certainty that God is on one side or the other. But it never has enough conscience, nor enough tolerance, idealism, justice, compassion, wisdom, humility, self-sacrifice for the greater good, integrity, courtesy, poetry, laughter, and generosity of substance and spirit. It is these elements that I urge you to carry into your careers, and remember that the great game of life is not about money; it is about doing your best to build the world anew.”

The most simple and straightforward ticket to being a leader that people want to follow, is to be trustworthy and inspiring! Work on those two things every day, and you could create worldwide impact the way Jack did.


Dr. John Izzo has spoken to over one million people, advised over 500 companies, authored nine best-selling books, and helped some of the world's most admired companies. He has been a pioneer in creating successful businesses and emerging work trends for over twenty-five years.

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1 Comment
  • Mary Key
    Posted at 15:25h, 30 January

    John – great article – John Bogle was a model leader and a true steward for others.

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