The Nine Components of Extraordinary Leadership

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This is the second part of a three-part series. Review part one, "The Authentic Business," or part three, "Creating the Culture of Extraordinary Business." This post from Wayne Ottum originally appeared on his blog and is reprinted here with permission.

“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born. —Warren Bennis

Leadership. What does it really mean? Many people struggle to clearly define what “it” is, yet most of us know when we are in the presence of a great leader and when we are not. Of course, the desire to define leadership is to help us understand what we need to do to become a better leader. We think, and rightly so, that if it is definable it can be learned, replicated and mastered. In fact, we believe everyone can become an extraordinary leader when they master nine simple components of leadership.

Let’s start by trying to define leadership. The following definition can be found at


[lee-der-ship] noun

1. the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group

Synonyms: administration, management, directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony

2. ability to lead.

Synonyms: authoritativeness, influence, command, effectiveness; sway, clout

3. an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction

4. the leaders of a group

Okay, that wasn’t very helpful, was it? It didn’t really explain “it” or tell us what we need to do to become a better leader. How about reading through “The 100 Best Quotes on Leadership”? We can find dozens of different definitions from a wide variety of authors there, but we can’t bottle quotes or discover our personal leadership style through the analysis of a hundred different ideas on leadership. In effect, learning how to lead most effectively in this way becomes a matter of continued, and usually frustrating, trial and error. 

How do we then define leadership so we can understand it and become better leaders? In my 30+ years of experience, the most practical definitions I have run across are found in two quotes. The first, “You manage things, you lead people,” is by Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. In other words, leadership is about getting people to accomplish something, whether it be a fundraising goal, a software development project or a business objective. Thus, leadership is 100% a people-centered activity and it differs from management in that way. You can manage things (like budgets or resources), but you lead people. The second, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it,” is by General Dwight Eisenhower. This refers to the art of leadership, being able to guide and inspire others so they willingly act to achieve an objective you want accomplished as if it were their idea and for their own reasons.

Given these clarifications on what leadership is, we can readily see that there are three main areas of focus for extraordinary leadership:

1. Clarifying the Leadership Situation

To be clear, if you, the leader, want something done by others (your followers), they must know exactly what needs to be done and they also need to know just what “done” means. That is, the situation must be clearly understood and a successful resolution of the situation must be clearly defined. If your car needs to be fixed, the problem first needs to be diagnosed and understood before action can be taken. Once understood, the mechanic now can determine just what “fixed” means and can assess what parts, time and other resources are needed for the fix. So too with any leadership situation. To ensure your followers accomplish what you want done, you as the leader must do the following three things, which are the first three components of extraordinary leadership:

1. Diagnose the situation and determine clearly what the issue, opportunity or challenge might be.

You might need to fix sagging sales, launch a new product, take advantage of a competitive advantage or overcome an outside threat.

2. Create a clear definition of success.

What is the sales goal, when should the product be launched and how, what would successfully using the competitive advantage mean or what does it clearly look like to overcome the outside threat?

3. Determine the resources and actions needed for success.

Do you need money, time, special skills or knowledge? What human resources are needed and with what talents? What are the basic steps to achieving success and doing what needs done?

2. Getting Followers to Naturally Act Because They Want To

We all act when we are motivated, that is, when we have the incentive to take action. Motivation, however, is an inside job, meaning that although a leader might coerce or incentivize people to act, we will only act when internally motivated. Thus, extraordinary leaders tap into the natural motivation of their followers and avoid putting motivational roadblocks in their way. They do this by communicating in a way that works for their followers, assigning tasks that align with their natural talents and leveraging their intrinsic (or natural) way of being motivated. What extraordinary leaders do is tap into and fully utilize the unique set of three intrinsic or natural gifts that all of us have. These three unique gifts form the next three components of extraordinary leadership, which are:

4. Our natural themes of talent (strengths)

Based on decades of research by the Gallup Organization and as discovered using their Clifton StrengthsFinder®, we come to understand our top five themes of talent and our natural way of thinking, feeling and behaving. These talents can become our strengths through practice and skill development.

5. Our natural way of learning and processing information (learning style)

Based on a simple learning model developed by Neil Fleming, each of us has a natural way of processing information, and thus communicating. We learn and communicate in one of four modes or some combination thereof: visual (see it), auditory (hear it), read/write (read or write it) or kinesthetic (touch it).

6. Our natural way of being motivated (motivation style)

We are uniquely motivated to act, according to noted American psychologist David McClelland, by one of three main needs-based intrinsic motivators: a dominant need for achievement (need to get things done), a dominant need for affiliation (need to be part of something or to know why) or a dominant need for power (need to feel in control or in power).

3. Guiding and Inspiring Purposeful and Intentional Action to Achieve Success

Once the situation and the desired outcome is clear and after followers have decided to act on their own accord by seeing themselves using their natural talents to achieve results, it is time to act. The extraordinary leader, however, ensures that action is intentional and purposeful. They clearly define three things for their followers that ensure success. These three things are the final components of extraordinary leadership:

7. The responsibilities (actions) that each follower must accomplish

This refers to clearly listing and defining what someone does. It is the list of tasks the individual is assigned (responsible) to accomplish.

8. The accountabilities, or measurements of performance, of those actions

This is the measure of performance of the tasks assigned. It is defining the standard of performance of each task in measurable terms or, more precisely, the most important assigned tasks.

9. The authority (decisions one can and cannot make)

This is a definition of exactly what the individual may independently decide in their role and when they need to consult or get authority from others.

Extraordinary Leadership

Extraordinary leadership, therefore, can now be defined, learned, replicated and mastered. Extraordinary leadership is:

• Clearly understanding the leadership situation and creating a vision for success

• Understanding your gifts as a leader and those of your followers

• Using your unique gifts to:

○ Communicate success (vision)

○ Tap into the unique gifts of followers and align them to the situation and tasks

○ Guide and inspire followers to achieve success through clear and purposeful action, accountabilities and authority

When the leader completes these nine components of extraordinary leadership in the order presented, the chance of success in the leadership situation dramatically improves. It is no guarantee; however, it should now be clear that without any of these components, the chance of success in the situation will surely go down.

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About the Author

Wayne Ottum

Wayne Ottum is President and Founder of Ottum Enterprises, LLC and a passionate consultant, author and speaker dedicated to creating extraordinary businesses and leaders. With over 30 years of experience in the fields of business, education and consulting, Wayne guides business owners and leaders to Lead from Strength™ to achieve the clarity of direction, focus and authenticity that naturally drives their business to ever greater levels of success. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneOttum or @OttumEnterprise, and find him on LinkedIn.

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If you would like more information on Wayne's Lead from Strength™ methodology and how he can help you take your business and leadership to the next level, send him an email at You can also learn to discover and use your unique gifts by reading his book, “Live from Strength—Discover Your Unique Gifts and the Incredible Power Already Within You!


Published: 05/08/2017

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