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Great leadership is a balancing act. Here are five critical harmonies great leaders manage to achieve that really stand out.

Kind without being Weak
One of the toughest things for leaders to master is kindness. Kindness shares credit and offers praise for others’ work. It’s a balancing act between being genuinely kind and not looking weak. The key to finding that balance is to recognize that true kindness is inherently strong; it’s both direct and straightforward. Telling people the difficult truth they need to hear is much kinder than protecting them from a difficult conversation.

Strong without being Harsh
Strength is an important quality in a leader. People will wait to see if a leader is strong before they decide to follow his or her lead. We all will follow someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. We need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. A lot of leaders mistake domineering, and controlling, for strength. They think that taking control and pushing people will somehow inspire a loyal following. Strength isn’t something you can force onto people; it’s something you earn by demonstrating calm in the face of adversity.

Confident without being Arrogant
We gravitate to confident leaders because confidence is contagious, and it helps us to believe great things will happen. The trick, as a leader, is to make certain our confidence doesn’t slip into arrogance and cockiness. Confidence is about passion and belief in our ability to make things happen, but when our confidence loses touch with reality, we begin to think arrogantly. Arrogance makes us lose credibility.

Great leaders are humble. Humility pulls people toward the leader, and that’s power. Humble leaders are great not because of their position of authority, rather because humility looks like power over their accomplishments. They don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and only ask their followers to do those things they do themselves.

Positive while remaining Realistic
Another major challenge that leaders face is finding the balance between keeping things positive and still being realistic. Think of a sailboat with three people aboard: a pessimist, an optimist, and a great leader. Everything is going great until a storm blows in. The pessimist throws his hands up and complains about the wind; the optimist sits back saying that things will improve; and the great leaders says, “We can do this!” and then adjusts the sails to keep the ship moving. The right combination of positivity and realism is what keeps forward momentum going.

Inspirational instead of Preachers
Great leaders inspire trust and admiration through their actions, not just their words. Many leaders say that integrity is important to them, but great leaders walk their talk by demonstrating integrity every day. Grinding people about the behavior you want to see has minimal impact compared to demonstrating that behavior yourself.


Jim Trunick – an Executive Coach with AIIR Consulting – is passionate about studying what creates value and what depletes value in large organizations and complex collaborations. To learn more, check out his full bio here.