Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



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The Leadership Differentiator

The Thriving Essentials Series: Episode 12


What makes a leader great?

With election season in full swing in the United States, the importance of leadership is top of mind for many!
A couple of years ago, we took a deep dive into leadership in a series on 
What True Leaders Know! Therefore, I do not intend to revisit that terrain. However, it is worth touching on what distinguishes a good leader from a great one. Many good leaders fulfill their duty, and we acknowledge them for it. But does doing so make them great?
Let us explore!


Good or Great

Who is a great leader is an oft-asked question, and many of us would like to hear our names mentioned in response! – This is an understandable and worthy aspiration. But knowing what makes a leader great is more important than being called great because knowledge and understanding propel growth.
On the other hand, simply hearing you are a great leader is a nod of approval and offers little more than a moment of gratification. So, what makes a leader great?

When many of us think of a great leader, we think of someone inspiring who is skilled at motivating others. Also, we may recall a person who is attentive to the needs of others. Perhaps the organizational leader who roams the office building, asks others what they are working on, and helps. These are all admirable and reflect thoughtfulness and care. However, in isolation, such actions do not describe a great leader because the impact can be relatively limited, and great leaders have an indelible impact that extends way beyond them. Therefore, the ultimate opportunity is to transform a series of mundane and critical deeds into a way of being that others embrace and benefit many.


An ideal model

All this talk about greatness might remind you of your weaknesses and leave you feeling not-so-great. So, let us not stop here. – Let us consider an ideal model of leadership: Jesus Christ. Here, I am not referring to Jesus from the perspective of God, Lord, or Messiah. I am referring to him as a leader. Essentially, I am not referring to what Jesus preached but how Jesus led.

Some might say Jesus was not a great leader because his impact seemed relatively limited compared to his intention while he was on earth. – He assembled a team of 12 men who followed him everywhere he went. Eventually, one of them betrayed him, leading to his death. Also, on his last day, many people rejected him.
Given our modern expectations and standards for leadership, this could seem like a failure: One starts a movement and dedicates one’s entire life to the cause, intending to change the world. Then, at their death, just a few hundred people champion their cause. Such an individual will probably not make it into the history books. But Jesus did! He not only made it into history books, but the book about him, his purpose, and the plan of his Father that he professed is the best-selling book of all time, far outpacing any other! – The Bible. (SOURCE: Best-selling book | Guinness World Records)


About others. Not about me.

Undeniably, this is the heartfelt vision of a true leader: Not to sell billions of copies of a book but to inspire, empower, and enable others so that their worthy cause extends beyond them and their time on earth. To understand what precedes this level of impact, one must study what set apart Jesus’s approach.

Today, many leaders set themselves apart through pomp and circumstance: They deliberately appear extremely busy and insinuate others are not worth their time. Also, they may arrive in the most expensive cars, always adorned in luxury clothing. – Expecting everyone to bow down before them. However, Jesus’s model was vastly different. – He related with both the wealthy and the lowly. One might even say he resided with the hoodlums of society. His approach defied human logic and led many to scorn him. Concluding a real king would not sleep in the servants’ quarters.


Going with others

As a man who claimed to be the son of the all-powerful God, one would assume the most effective way for him to spread his message would be to raise his voice, instill fear, and command obedience. However, he selected twelve average men, including fishermen and a tax collector. And he invested in them – inspiring them and instilling his vision in them. Before his death, he did not personally reach everyone on earth. However, throughout his working years, he frequently asked those he interacted with to share their experience with others. Importantly, before his death, he trained, prepared, and asked his followers to share the message with others.

Remarkably, Jesus did not pen books in the Bible during his time on earth. But he was the source of inspiration as some of the books in the New Testament were written by those who witnessed and knew him.

Herein lies the difference between a good leader and a great leader:
A good leader is principled, focused on a goal, and drives others to commit and action the goal. However, a great leader is obsessed with a worthy purpose and fulfills the mission by inspiring and equipping others to take on the cause and benefit others.


Leading through Others

Great leadership is the art of multiplication: Sharing and imparting in a manner that enables others to embrace the purpose, feel a sense of ownership, and live the mission authentically. The only way to multiply is to go with and through others. It must always be about the purpose, not self-aggrandizement.

Friend, we all lead – whether we lead ourselves or thousands. And the question we must all wrestle with is: How do I enable others to carry the torch without me? – This is the ultimate leadership differentiator!

Until next time!

For you and to you,


Image credit: Pexels | Miguel Á. Padriñán



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