The Secret Ingredient Of Brilliant Leaders And Managers

The Secret Ingredient of Brilliant Leaders and Managers - People Development Network

I have only come across a handful of brilliant leaders and managers in my working career

The best leaders and managers display a secret ingredient. These leaders and managers were intrinsically drawn to “doing the right thing”. The “right thing” for these leaders and managers wasn’t always popular. The act of choosing for them was sometimes personally agonising, but they still made those decisions.

When questioned, many leaders and managers know what “doing the right thing” is, but quite often,  mysteriously,  they just don’t make that decision.  When these decisions are made, then opportunities are lost, credibility is questioned and results are lower than expected.

Sometimes leaders and managers don’t “do the right thing”


  • Take the least line of resistance
  • Let Counter opinion sway and intimidate them
  • Don’t have the confidence to make difficult decisions
  • Don’t believe or are not in touch with their intuition
  • Are simply not brave enough
  • Are blinkered to values which are inclusive, caring and fair

Let’s face it if everyone “did the right thing” we would have little need for regulation or employment law in the way in which we have it now.

Regulation can get in the way

We would never unfairly dismiss or discriminate against people.  Also, we would never allow disrespectful behaviour.   We would consult with people affected by possible redundancy.  We would want people to have appropriate work/life balance.

Businesses frequently find statute and regulation to be prohibitive and frustrating.  In the worst scenario, employers may see regulation as a barrier to getting what they want and employees may use regulation to beat the employer about the head when they are unjustifiably disgruntled.

I’m not advocating we shouldn’t have any regulation, or guidance or indeed laws about employing people.  Safeguards need to be in place, and expectations need to be clarified.  Both employers and employees need to have in place a certain amount of protection. I’m just saying if you are a brilliant leader or manager, you don’t need them in order to know what the right thing to do is, in most situations.

Guiding principles

A brilliant leader and manager will rarely have to buy into expert employment law advice or instigate formal procedures for the sake of it.  Instead, they regularly and routinely take consistent action and use guiding principles such as:

  • Draw up simple and helpful guidelines and policies
  • Have standards for everything they do which are accessible and simple to execute
  • Understand people have a life outside of the business, but expect people to work to the best of their ability when they are there.
  • Have the best interests of their employees at heart because they know a happy workforce serves their customers better
  • Know how to manage difference and still find a common thread to unite people
  • Believe the difference is beneficial to the company in a myriad of ways
  • Helps the business to survive and thrive knowing this is in the best interests of employees.    As a result, they always know the bottom line and act on it.
  • Are open, honest and transparent and have nothing to hide
  • Treat people fairly giving them the benefit of the doubt whilst being firm about boundaries.
  • Use regulation or guidance positively to help shape recruitment and management expertise

The danger of unhelpful decision making

When leaders and managers don’t understand how to manage difference whether it is psychological, cultural, or an equality issue, or are more concerned about speedy outcomes at the expense of the people they employ, then there is a danger unhelpful decisions will be made.

Employees who don’t respect the contractual terms and goodwill, by which the employment contract is meant to be carried out by them, can cause endless headaches for businesses, especially those struggling to survive.  Employees who don’t understand businesses have to make tough decisions, to survive or thrive, can derail a business by being resistant to change.   These are the people who can waste precious energy and costs for employers and brilliant leaders and managers are skilled at nipping this kind of attitude and behaviour in the bud.

Employers need to make sure they don’t complain about regulation to paper over the inadequacies of their leaders and managers.  Employees need to understand that businesses expect them to be an asset, not a drain:  Do the best they can and fulfil the requirements of their contract to the best of their ability.

The employment contract should be a two-way, win-win contract.  If you are a leader or manager, and you want to be a brilliant one, then it’s simple    “Do the right thing”.


Christina Lattimer
I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance. I collaborate with leadership experts, managers and HR professionals to help them get their own message and unique services and products to a wide audience.

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  • Pete Nyland says:

    As usual Christine a thought provoking piece and I agree with most of what you say. 38 years in business and yet to meet a brilliant leader or a brilliant anyone. Worked with loads of talented people but we all have faults and bad days. I think being swayed by counter opinion can be a great strength – particularly if you were wrong ;^) but of course you can get yourself into bother by over or underding most things. Which leads me to a key attribute I feel missing from your list – the ability to stand up in front of the team admit you made the wrong call, apologise and try and undo any negatives a d ask for help to create a new forward path.

    • christinapd says:

      Hi Pete, thanks for commenting. I agree there is always another perspective to every argument, and it would be a poor leader who didn’t actually listen to counter opinions, so your point is well made. There will of course always be times when leaders allow themselves to be swayed, and sometimes rightly so. It is when they are persuaded to do something against their better judgement and they end up doing the wrong thing as a result. Thanks for your addition too, I agree admitting you were wrong and saying sorry, is of course, “the right thing to do”. Great contribution Pete, thanks again. – Christina

  • Renato says:

    For me, conviction is key. Like W.B.Yeats “Second Coming”: The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

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