Keys to Successful Leadership (Pt. 1)

For over 10 years I have studied leadership and gained hands on experience leading. Those years have taught me the essential keys that separate the successful (great) leaders from unsuccessful (good or bad) leaders. I have found several keys that will allow a person to become successful and effective within a leadership position. If you know and adapt the keys into your life, I believe you will be on your way to achieving your maximum leadership potential.


Successful leadership starts with influence. Influence is defined as “the capacity or power of a person to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc. of others.” You have the ability to have or gain positive or negative influence. Positive influence will allow a person to lead effectively while negative influence will eventually lead to the downfall of a leader, or a lack of commitment or dedication from your people. Those who fail to gain positive influence will fail in a leadership role. Positive influence is crucial when it comes to successful leadership. Increase your influence by leading yourself well, maintaining a positive attitude, and inspiring people through action.


Trust is foundational to leadership. It’s important to remember, trust takes time to build but it can be lost in a second. World Champaign Tennis player Arthur Ashe said, “Trust has to be earned, and should come only after the passage of time.” Chose to trust the people around you and let your actions and words show that you are a trustworthy leader. When you do, your people will be 100 percent committed and dedicated to you and your vision. The key is to earn the trust of your people and do whatever you can to protect that trust. This will position you toward being a successful leader.


Successful leaders communicate and live out a compelling vision. Theodore Hesburgh said, “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” Great leaders understand that vision leaks so they take advantage of every opportunity to communicate it to their people. In essence they over-communicate the vision. They inspire action toward the vision by telling stories and painting pictures in the minds of their people about a bigger and better future. When the vision is alive it will fuel the team to achieve the individual results and goals that will allow everyone to move closer to accomplishing the organizational vision.

Question: Can you add to the list? What are some other keys to successful leadership?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Hi Dan. Enjoyed the post… all three areas mentioned above are vital. Here is what I would add to the list, the leader needs to be continually leading himself i.e. building his/her interior life. Leaders who lead themselves well can lead others well. Continual growth is a key to lasting leadership. Thanks for the great post!

    • Hello Greg,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I totally agree, leadership is first about leading and managing self. So essential. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  • Dan – I’d add self-belief, which is complimentary to Greg’s point. If a leader lacks self-belief, it comes through with every action. But a leader with conviction in themselves is a leader people follow with trust.

    • That’s a great one, Razwana! That one’s important. Thank you for reading and adding to the topic.

  • Solid advice, Dan. I’d say part of that trust is the responsibility of taking care of the ones we’re called to lead. All good reminders. Thanks.

    • Great point, Floyd.

    • So true, Floyd. We have to be good stewards with what God has given us, that includes people who follow us. Thank you for adding to the list.

  • Vision is so key. I’ve been privileged to sit under a few leaders who did an excellent job of casting vision.

    • Yes, vision is so important. It makes a huge difference. Thank you for sharing.

  • Action- successful leaders don’t just talk the talk, they lead by example, take action and do what needs to get done. They’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. Great thoughts as always Dan :)

    • I totally agree, action is key. Thank you for adding that essential element.

  • Decision making. I’ve known people with great trust, vision, and influence but who could not make a decision when it counted!

    • Great addition, David! Being able to make a decision is huge. Thank you for adding that.

  • I think one thing I would add is being a leader who is approachable. One who can handle criticize and grow from it instead of throwing stones at others. We all make mistakes and we all need help. A good leader realizes the value to learning from others and isn’t threatened if someone else is better at something than they are.

    • Yes, great leaders are defiantly approachable. The people around them know that they can talk to the leader about anything. Thank you for adding that!

      • As I wrote that, I thought how so often my comments stem from whatever is going on in my life at the moment (I suppose most people are like this).
        This comment comes from my own frustrations at working with people who don’t want to listen. Just gotta keep my eyes and heart focused on God and it will all work out.

        • i seem to do the same thing (with the comments and my blog posts). Yes, staying open to God is crucial. Thank you for the honesty and discussion.

  • You know my #1 is vision. I would also add competence.

    • Thanks for adding those essential two.

  • DS

    Appreciative/thankful would be one that I would add. A person who can tell others thank you or demonstrate that they value people is something that I believe invigorates others.

    • I agree, that’s important. Thank you for adding to the list.

  • I found that some of the most successful leaders in my life have also had a great deal of compassion for others. They never seemed into themselves or stuck up but truly cared.

    • Me too, Caleb. Compassion is so important but I’ve found it’s often an uncommon quality. Thank you for reading and adding to the list.

  • willratliff

    Good points, Dan. I’d add integrity to the list. This definitely goes hand-in-hand with trust. If a leader does not have integrity, then the trust factor quickly goes out the window. However, it’s amazing how many leaders lack this quality (like compassion mentioned before).

    • That’s such an important one. I agree, many people do lack this one so having it really can set us apart from the rest of the crowd. Thank you for reading and sharing.

      ps. Do you have a site or blog?

      • willratliff

        I am currently working on developing a new blog/site devoted solely to team’s and team-building targeted at younger teams & leaders. Would love any input and to stay connected. It’s definitely a work in progress.

        • Great! I’ll check it out. Yes, I’m looking forward to connecting more.

  • Dan,
    I’ll add these:

    – Leading by example.
    – Creating a positive organization/work environment –> providing incentives.

    • Great additions! Thank you for reading and adding to the topic.

  • Joshua Lee Henry

    Great start Dan! I look forward to reading what other keys of successful leadership you’ll include. To this list, I’d add passion. The Latin root word from which we get our word passion means quite literally “to suffer”. When understood in the context of leadership, it adds a layer of integrity to every worthwhile effort of influence. Think about MLK or the Apostle Paul, had they not had the passion for the message and cause to which they were leading, I doubt they would have been able to endure the sufferings they did. Passion keeps leaders going even when the times are tough.

    • Hello Joshua,

      What a great root word. It brings a new meaning to the word “passion.” We truly have to be dedicated to something that we are passionate about. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.