Seven elements of leadership

I heard that there are seven elements of leadership, just like there are seven habits of effective people and seven dwarves to go with Snow White.  A quick scan of our favourite search engine shows that there may be anywhere between six and nine.  I wish they would make their minds up.  It turns out though that the list I was given has eight.  The ability to count is clearly not one of the elements of leadership.

Here they are:

  • Honesty
  • Leading by example
  • Trustworthiness
  • Approachability
  • Fairness
  • Integrity
  • Openness
  • Strong work ethic


The problem with lists like these is that you can’t resist running through them and deciding that they describe you to a T.  You see yourself in the points that you are happy with in and the ones that you are less so you skip over.

Looking at the list though they look like three elements.  Leading by example and having a strong work ethic fall into the same camp.  You couldn’t lead from the front yet be lazy and laisse faire.  Or could you?

Honesty, trustworthiness and having integrity again are surely different facets of the same characteristic.  To garner trust you need to be trustworthy and this cannot be achieved if you are dishonest and lack integrity.

Finally openness and approachability are good bed fellows.  They are elements that I try to espouse.

These are all things that anyone would buy into.  They are motherhood and apple pie yet I don’t think that there is a magic formula to leadership.  Indeed history tells us that many of the greatest leaders have been awful people.  The list of cruel dictators is long.

Leadership comes naturally to a few but to the majority of us it is something that we have to learn the hard way, through trial and error.

For me though the main elements of leadership are the determination to make a difference (in whatever area you are leading), the ability to articulate your vison and the ability to engage with all of your stakeholders.

I may be wrong though.

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