Expert Panel: What makes a good leader great?

Welcome to this brilliant Expert Panel on what makes a good leader great. Here you will find a fantastic lineup of recognised Leaders, CEOs and Managing Directors who shared their thoughts and experience on how to excel in the art of leadership.

Michael Meyrick

Chief Executive Officer at Meyrick Consulting

A great leader is one that is effective. You can have great ideas, but success comes with total focus. Leadership is a long game and requires the ability to persevere however tough the circumstances. However, how you manage a team around you is key. Making a team accountable and designed in such a way that results are almost guaranteed is part of a leader’s responsibility I believe.

Sometimes it’s not doing and acting that makes the key difference to being a success or a failure. Great communication skills with others and also constant reappraisal of your own qualities are significant differentiators. Being able to receive transparent feedback from team members as a learning opportunity takes both guts and humility.

A great leader will never be satisfied and that’s where the energy, vision and effectiveness stems from in my opinion. The following quotation from Chris Hagerty really summarises this quite nicely “The goal of most leaders is to get the people to think highly of them as a leader. But the goal of the exceptional leader is to get the people to think highly of themselves.”

Mark Kennedy

Managing Director at Contract Plant Rental

A great leader needs to have a clear vision, has integrity and humility with a very clear focus. They understand that it is the people they lead that are the formula to the success or failure of any project or business. They understand their limitations and surround themselves with great people who have the skills and the same attitude who can work as a functional team.

Great leaders help people reach their goals, and are not afraid to hire people that might be better than them to achieve the overall objective.

Iwona Lebiedowicz

Chief Executive Officer at PAB Group

Leaders, especially during times of uncertainty, must be prepared to make tough decisions, and often sacrifices, to fulfil their vision and grow into stronger and better leaders.

During tougher times, I feel being a leader means lots of noise, being buffeted from one side to another; it means working crazy long hours, getting knocked back and getting back up again, getting noticed, celebrating wins, and learning some life lessons quickly.

Here are a few of mine…

Lesson 1: Clarity of purpose

Great leaders must not only have a clear picture of where they want to be and who they must become to get there but also be able to articulate this vision to their teams so everyone is motivated to be the best they can be.

Lesson 2: Kindness and integrity

I once heard this quote, which defines leadership for me; “Love your people, love your organization and love those you serve, and you’ll have discovered the secret of great leadership.”

Lesson3: Empowering my team

I strongly believe that great leadership is committing to becoming someone people can look up to. For me, that means asking myself every day “Did I make an impact on our team today? Was I able to help and motivate those around me?”

Lesson 4 Passion and dedication

In my opinion, great leaders establish the standards for customer focus. Making sure these high standards are embedded throughout our business and that everyone is fully equipped to provide a great experience for all our stakeholders is a big part of what has made us successful.

Read a full article here: What makes a great leader?

Stephen Haigh

Lead, Consulting Partner Search at Investigo Executive

 A 360-degree viewpoint.

Some leaders only look forwards, striving for growth and change, but fail to consider whether their people are following them, or what is happening in the market.

Others look left and right, worrying about competing with their peers and market competitors, their energy is consumed by KPIs and revenue targets.

Meanwhile some focus just on the people following them, making sure they’re happy and productive.

A great leader has the whole 360 view, they strategize about the future, measure themselves against the market, and work with their team to excel against their strategic objectives.

Andrew Pullman

CEO at People Risk Solutions Ltd

A great leader is one who listens and adapts. The biggest mistake leaders make is to think that now they have reached a leadership position they can call all the shots, and don’t need other input; these people usually fail. It is critical to bring your team with you, and that means listening and using their expertise to make better decisions.

Gina Le Prevost

CEO at AP Executive

A great leader is someone who can relate to each one of their staff in a unique way, what I mean by this is by the leader taking time to find out how the staff member relates to business and their job. I also believe that being direct, frank and honest is the best approach to being a great leader. Although at times it is hard to tell a staff member your brutal opinion, when you know they are not going to like it, you hope that one day the employee will reflect on the difficult conversation and see the relevance even if they did not want to at the time.


A great leader inspires by providing clarity on the purpose and the goal but they let the team innovate on how they meet it, allowing each individual to thrive. Kate Shoesmith, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Recruitment & Employment Confederation

Phil Ryan

Director at LVR Capital

A great leader in my opinion is to know when you don’t know the answer and know when to utilise internal or external resources to reach a decision.

I believe teams respect this more than someone pretending they do and blaming them when it doesn’t work.

We all have to constantly and consistently embrace change and innovate. The world is changing, and changing fast.

Cheney Hamilton

CEO & Founder at Find|Your|Flex Group

To me, a great leader is someone who allows their team the space to be great. To do what they do best, to give them the freedom to express themselves and BE HEARD. In my experience, this achieves employee loyalty, trust and positive productivity behaviours, beyond anything I’ve ever seen in any other management style.

Jenny Kitchen

CEO at Yoyo

What makes a great leader?

Knowing when to gather opinions and input, and when to stop the debate and take decisive action is incredibly important as a leader. The successful leader is collaborative and empathetic, she seeks out people’s ideas and looks to understand it from their perspective. But there always needs to be a crunch point, when decisions need to be made. If people feel like they have been heard, even if their ideas weren’t ultimately carried through, they are likely to be respectful and committed to backing that decision.

Hire great people, and then know when to lead from the front and when to lead from behind. You want people to have confidence and get energised and inspired through your leadership, but you’ve hired them for a reason, so let them shine, be accountable and come to their own conclusions. And sometimes, these may differ from your own and sometimes you just have to accept this and move on. As long as the ultimate objectives are reached, it shouldn’t matter if the methods aren’t identical to what you would have done. Delegate and have faith in the people you have hired.

Daniel Boyle

 CEO – RLS Search Ltd

The ability to cultivate or develop one’s EQ. The ability to transmit their personality combined with a high level of empathy is what gives a strong leader the toolset required to face the majority of situations that arise when influencing and guiding members of their organization or team. Obviously, this is done via the process of social influence to maximize the results and efforts of others to achieve a goal. But a high level of EQ has always been apparent in all the truly great leaders I have worked with, and it has been that level of EQ, which comes hand in hand with strong self-awareness, that in my experience makes good leaders ‘Great Leaders’.

Lucy Morgan

Managing Director

A great leader cares about people – genuine care for the people they employ, their well-being, security, progression and career development. A great leader also cares about the people they work with externally and makes ethical business decisions knowing they are dealing with people’s lives.

Neil Skehel

CEO at Awards International

Two things – the ability to lead teams through tough times and knowing their limitations.

Leaders set a vision for their organisations, a compelling one hopefully, but organisations don’t always run smoothly and it is impossible to predict the future. Often morale and motivation can be challenged.

Great leaders recognise that one of the most important aspects of their role is to focus on what needs to be done to get past the situation, taking it in their stride and showing how to approach adversity.

Great leaders seek solutions in these situations and show how the challenges will be met, with confidence and enthusiasm. It is vital that leaders also know their limitations and are not afraid to admit to them. They won’t be too many, because they are exceptional people, but they will have limitations. To admit them and show you need the team around you to help you and to lead in those areas is a great attribute of a leader.

A lot is said about authenticity or showing vulnerability, these days and great leaders are not afraid to act with authenticity and share their vulnerability at times.

Marco Zamponi

CEO at Labnormal

A great leader is someone capable of generating momentum from the factors around them. However, the entanglements of today’s environment can act as friction or as a constraint, and the future looks even more complex.

I firmly believe that there are several kinds of leadership styles, but while some of the aspects can be held in a cluster, or someone could be inspired by another leader, a great leader has his own formula.

Leading, being committed, inspiring changes in other team members, bringing their experience and contribution, and sharing their values.

Agree on behaviour, terms and procedure policy, don’t get stuck in issues but help move over. Passion, methodology, and the ability to communicate problems and listen to other people’s problems do not underestimate what people have understood and what they do not. A simple approach, be present but not fully committed.

Can a leader be selfish?

I would say yes but must remember to listen appropriately and do not be superficial. Accept and embrace diversity, do not overwhelm other team members. Can be rigid on some consolidated tasks, get feedback from others, accept failures and accept the team’s values, culture and diversity.

Those are some of the activities and skills a good leader must manage, but a great leader understands that we are all human and subject to good days and bad days.
That’s why a great leader should embrace this complexity and achieve the best from people, resources, cultures, and the environment surrounding them to help a company or a team sail through their objectives.

Grant Coren

Managing Director at Pharma-Search Limited

Are leaders born or developed?
It is often difficult to define what makes a great leader, we all have our own subjective opinion.

However, I am confident that a leader should never be confused with a good manager!

Strong leaders bring a willingness to listen to others but the confidence to make decisions.

Strong leaders trust and empower others, sharing information and experience openly and with transparency.

A strong leader will always seek to bring in new talent that has the potential to be better than them and never feel threatened.

A strong leader will always be comfortable being challenged and create an environment where individuals are encouraged to professionally challenge one another.

A strong leader will always encourage others to develop and support them and allow them to grow regardless of age, level, race, religion, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, or any other personal choice.

Mariusz Kowalski

CEO at Waterwalk Partners

In your opinion, what makes a great leader?

There are so many possible answers to this question. But in my view, great leaders can combine the following qualities:

Knowing how to drive their organization in tough times

Some leaders may treat adverse conditions as a Formula 1 pitstop, using the time to fine-tune their organization (the analogy first shared by Professor Scott of LBS and referred to by the Managing Partners’ Forum). Others may have another vision and plan. But they make things happen instead of waiting.

Accessible and connected

When working together in real life (IRL) is not possible or difficult, great leaders are accessible and available, doing their utmost to keep their people energized and motivated. And while it is particularly important during the pandemic, such an attitude should be promoted also when things come back to (new) normal.

Making people work for a purpose

It is not enough just to have company values and a mission statement. Great leaders make their team members believe that they work for a purpose worth the effort. That they work for a good cause. To achieve it, it is not enough to give a few motivational speeches. Great leaders share their bold vision with their teams and realize it together.

Agnieszka Pytlas

Adwokat / Managing Partner at Penteris

Much has been written about successful leadership: how to become a leader, how to develop the relevant skills, or how to learn from one’s failures. In many respects, all these questions come down to intellectual prowess, technical competence, and operational know-how – in short, good old-fashioned hard skills. However, while qualifications are essential and cannot be underestimated in one’s day-to-day work, they fail to account for the difference in performance between equally skilled people in leadership positions.

All things being equal, what makes some senior leaders more successful than others? This was the question Daniel Goleman set out to answer when he embarked on his research into what makes a leader (published by Harvard Business Review in June 1996). What he found was that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership, the “right stuff” that allows some leaders to rise above the rest. Today, this statement rings particularly true.

Read the full article: Successful leadership: how to be a great leader

Joanna Deagle

Managing Director at CAFE: Centre for Access to Football in Europe

Integrity. Someone who is able to act with integrity in everything they do. Someone who makes decisions based on consulting those who will be impacted by those decisions so they are able to find suitable and sustainable solutions.

Food for thought:

Do all stakeholders including employees benefit from the success? 

Is success in the short term laying a foundation for growth in the long term?

David Saldanha, Managing Director at Wavesight Limited

Berne Omolafe

Founder and Head of Innovation at

Accountability. This is very often overlooked. Accountability is not just the acceptance of fault, it is the preemptive ability to ensure matters are set in a way where the big picture and the bottom line are aligned. This is by far the most important feature of a great leader.

Jon Faulkner

CEO at 6bythree Digital Ltd

I think what makes a good leader great, is being consistently caring and humbly serving all the people they interact with, colleagues, clients and broader communities, delivering the best they can in all things. A willingness to serve and support people is key to ensure strong trusting relationships, which helps collaborative activities to be much more successful as the conversations are more open, the challenges and opportunities rise to the surface more readily and people feel genuinely engaged, informed, empowered and contributing to the work in hand. Then, what goes around comes around, all of the people in the mix begin to humbly serve each other and do the best they can in all things and it leads to a context of abundance, rather than constraints.

Demonstrating true care, support and service to others, every day and in all things, focusing on the person as a whole to ensure that they flourish is, I believe, what makes a good leader great.

Shabac Cabdilahi

Managing Director at The Local Teachers

To me, when we talk about good leader it really comes down to two qualities;

  1. a great leader must be an energiser, he or she has to be able to inject people energy, motivate them to do things. To do this effectively you need to be able to connect with people and sympathise with them to get them to do the work. The point here is providing them with the purpose and why they should be acting not next week, not tomorrow but now.
  2. The equally important element that a great leader needs to acquire is the ability to create clarity. You see when you energise people to kickstart the work, you then need to be able to provide a clear roadmap that takes them to the desired destination.

Stephen Sullivan

Managing Director

A great leader has many great qualities but, for me, the most important one is to listen and hear what your team and clients want. Without this, you end up down too many dead ends on product and solutions plus your team loses interest.

Dr Raman K Attri

Build ‘excellence hubs’ to leverage diversity of locations, cultures and ages

The leadership strategy of the excellence hub clearly gives cost benefits in certain regions where salaries are relatively lower. In the other areas, it may allow leveraging characteristically younger population profiles. While our typical first preference always has been hiring experienced senior professionals, but we could open up positions at multiple tiers to include mid-senior and younger generations. In such a structure, the younger people received highly experienced mentoring from senior staff and came up to speed. But the most significant advantage comes in the form of fresh ideas like technologies, software, apps, AI tools, and other contemporary expertise this age group brings.

Not only does it massively uplift the quality in line with the technology-driven world, but it also prepares the workforce for future challenges.

Read the full article here: Excellence hubs: the way to leverage diversity of locations, cultures and ages

We at Expert Circle were overwhelmed with a number of responses. We assembled the first part of the panel and we will be publishing a second part shortly.


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