How Great Leaders Lead

August 24, 2020

The following was taken from What Makes a Leader Great by Russ Crosson, executive vice president of Blue Trust and executive vice chairman of the board of directors for Thrivent Trust Company.

Although who you are as a leader is as important as why you’re leading (the mission), how you lead may be the most important aspect of all. How you lead reveals the core motivation of your heart.

Let’s look at some key characteristics for the how of great leadership:

Passionate. Many workdays consist of doing the same activity over and over again. It’s how we handle this monotony that speaks volumes to those we’re leading. Do we continue to be passionate about our tasks even if it seems like the “same old stuff?” Are we zealous about the basics of our business or do we only get passionate when we’re involved in a new project, challenge, process, client, or strategic endeavor? Can we spend days doing mundane work in a passionate manner because it also leads to fulfilling the mission? If not, this could be a problem because, whether we’re aware of it or not, our teams are watching us.

Tenacious. Tenacious is a good word. It denotes strength, courage, and determination. The mental picture that comes to my mind is that of a dog with a coveted stick in his mouth and I’m trying to pry it out of his mouth. Do you have the picture? The harder I pull and shake the stick, the more the dog sinks in his teeth, determined to not let go. As leaders, we need to model this characteristic to our followers. Tenacious describes an attitude that never quits.

Enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is essential to strong leadership. In fact, when people see our energetic mindsets and our passions, they will be more likely to grasp our vision and mission. And there’s no doubt about it: Just like passion, enthusiasm is contagious! As a leader, you can simply go through the motions or you can lead with zeal and enthusiasm.

Here are several more characteristics that I’ve found usually reside within the hearts and souls of great leaders:

Follows God’s Principles (2 Timothy 2:4). All great leaders must have the utmost integrity. They must be trustworthy even in the small things, such as expense reports and paying taxes (business and personal).

Works Hard (2 Timothy 2:5). Great leaders model a strong work ethic. They’re diligent and not slothful.

Travels Light (Acts 28:30). Great leaders don’t get bogged down by carrying a lot of commitments outside their families and the enterprises they’re leading. Traveling light is essential if we want to have the necessary time to be effective leaders and mentors.

Consistent and Constant (Acts 17:17). Excellent leaders never waver in their message. They are consistently and constantly proclaiming the vision of the entity they’re leading. Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, wrote: “In order to communicate something adequately, it has to be communicated so many times that the people doing the communicating think they are beating a dead horse.” Effective communication is consistent and repetitive.

To read more about how great leaders lead, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Russ Crosson’s book, What Makes a Leader Great. Please contact your Blue Trust advisor, call 800.987.2987, or email

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This content has been updated since its original posting on July 18, 2016.


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