What makes a successful leader?

Sujata Barla, Deputy General Manager, Lupin, NEXT100 Winner 2017, believes successful leaders are a product of never-ending process of skill and character development

What makes a successful leader?

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say Thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor - Max De Pree

A vulnerable leader is comfortable with not having all the answers and is open to embracing perspectives, opinions and thoughts of his or her team

Leadership is a subject of much thought, discussion, debate, teaching, learning and writing. For few it’s their natural style of existence, others cultivate it over a period of time with learning from their own experiences. Great leaders are the product of never ending process of skill and character development which comes from facing uncomfortable and difficult experiences. There is no single path or set formula for becoming a great leader.

However, the signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their true potential? Are they learning and challenging themselves? Are they achieving the desired results? Are they able to manage conflict? In short, are they leading? Leader’s cant and shouldn’t stand alone.

A successful organization needs more than one influential leader. Leaders should be able to develop more leaders from the get-go.


In the field beyond right and wrong, I will meet you there - Rumi

Often treated as the most sought after skill – here is one of many widely discussed formula of a successful leader. As human beings we make meaning of our situations and we do it in an instant. The first thing we do in making meaning is to unconsciously filter the date of our surroundings, test it against pre-established expectations and surroundings. In trying to do so the understanding of the reality might be inhibited. Great leaders learn from experience and accept that it is an interpretative process. Experiences are events, it is how we experience them and we use them that turn them into learning and hopefully wisdom. Critical reflection is required to expose the taken for granted assumptions we make. Self-reflection deconstructs and reconstructs great leaders.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far - Daniel Goleman

EI is the most important trait of leadership and personal excellence. It means being aware that our emotions can drive our behavior and impact people (positively or negatively) and learning how to manage the emotions of self and others resulting in a positive outcome. Emotional intelligence is a balance between rational and emotional brain. EI is the foundation for a host of critical skills – impacts everything the leader says and does. A leader high in EI often paves way for creating emotionally intelligent teams.

Collaboration and Trust

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants - Isaac Newton

In today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, leaders need to tap into the intelligence and resourcefulness of their team.

A collaborative environment energizes team, encourages creativity, builds trust, increases communication, fosters team spirit- making working together both productive and joyful. A win-win for leaders and corresponding teams.

Being Vulnerable

The hardest thing about being a leader is demonstrating or showing vulnerability… When the leader demonstrates vulnerability and sensibility and brings people together, the team wins - Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks

Vulnerability does not mean being weak, overly emotional or submissive. To the contrary it means the courage to be you- to be authentic. A vulnerable leader is comfortable with not having all the answers and is open to embracing perspectives, opinion and thoughts of his or her team. The team reciprocates by demonstrating trustworthiness towards its leader leading to higher employee performance.

Leaders As Coaches

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life time - Unknown

A leader is often tempted to rush straight to finding a solution for the team member or fixing the problem for them. Leaders who often invest in asking questions to foster the team’s self-discovery see a bigger payoff in the long run. Team members are more empowered to make their own decisions, feel more engaged at work and go to their leaders less frequently – resulting in a self-reliant team.


Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss - Lee Lacocca

A leader creates a work environment in which team members feel important and appreciated. Leaders foster a culture of inclusiveness and excellence where everyone, regardless of organizational status or position, has the potential to develop beyond current skills and responsibilities.

Puma Rihanna Creeper


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