The Six common threads of leadership

#leadershipdevelopment leadership May 04, 2021
 Joshua Hibbert on Unsplash

When we set up Defy Expectations we had a very clear vision of leadership.  Leadership was not something confined to the few, to those who have clawed their way up the corporate ladder to the top of the organisation chart or through the swamp of politics to be chief alligator.  It’s something that is needed at every level in the organisation.  In the midst of a pandemic it is needed more than ever because in an atmosphere of stress and fear leadership is what keeps people going and gets things done.

We’ve seen amazing examples of this from Captain Tom inspiring support for the NHS, to Kate Bingham leading the charge to deliver the UK vaccines from many suppliers. 

There are so many other examples – people who have just got on with doing the job, walking the talk instead of just talking the talk.  They have all displayed leadership, of themselves and others.

There is a theory that leaders are born not made.  Evidence does not support this; they are not born any more than anyone who excels at any task is born to that excellence.  You can have a natural aptitude, but even child prodigies work incredibly hard at their skills.  Leadership is just the same.c Leadership is a learned skill.  It’s a skill that anyone can learn given the drive and the opportunity and a skill that we all need to learn if we are to survive in today’s world.

No one wakes up one morning and says, “I am going to be a leader”.  Leadership either creeps up on you, often as you are promoted, or it is thrust upon you by circumstance. If you are lucky enough to get the creeping variety then you have a chance to prepare.

If you find yourself in the middle of a crisis you will have to rely on what you know, so it is as well to have thought about leadership in advance.  There are a huge number of theories about what constitutes great leadership.  There is no magic formula.  Leadership is situational – one person may find themselves in a burning building and just take charge of getting people out, another may find themselves unexpectedly promoted at work.  The qualities that you need in situations may be very different, but all leadership has common threads:

  • Leaders must have confidence in themselves in order to give confidence to others. (That doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer from imposter syndrome some of the time). 
  • Leaders need to communicate with clarity and confidence.
  • Leaders must have the ability to assess evidence, to make a decision, to follow through with the necessary action and to live with the consequences.
  • Leaders must be able to change their decisions if they got them wrong and do that with speed and honesty.
  • Leaders must be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of people and inspire them accordingly. That means they need to be able to listen and observe.
  • Leaders need integrity when and where it matters, if their leadership is to be sustainable.

None of these talents is exceptional.  Leaders do not need to be superhuman, super-intelligent, super empathetic or have any of the other unlikely qualities we like to ascribe to great leaders.  Leaders are normal human beings who believe that they can help make things better for others.  That is why we believe that leaders can be found at any level in life.

Pat Chapman-Pincher 

Pat has spent most of her career founding and growing leading edge technology companies all around the world.   Pat believes that thoughtful and inspiring leadership is critical to the future growth of the world economy and now uses her skills and experience to help leaders and teams at all levels reach their full potential and to help companies succeed in a world where technology is transforming the way we do business. 

Pat is a Founder of