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Critical Traits of Distinguished Leaders

How to identify outstanding leaders

By Dr Mehmet YildizPublished 3 years ago 5 min read
Critical Traits of Distinguished Leaders
Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash

In this story, I want to share 12 critical traits of outstanding leaders. The story reflects research findings from a leadership study conducted as part of a cognitive science initiative. I named these leaders "distinguished" as they go above and beyond in providing services to their followers and society.

Here is a summary of the significant traits of distinguished leaders.

Demonstrating extensive knowledge and unique expertise

Every distinguished leader I met in the industry and research settings depict extensive knowledge and unique expertise in multiple domains.

Even though senior leadership require broad knowledge and understanding at a high level, distinguished leaders possess deep/vast knowledge and unique expertise in specialized areas.

These two unusual characteristics make them authoritative and respected by their stakeholders.

Producing with creativity

All leaders must be creative and productive as they continuously deal with unknown situations and operate in uncharted territories.

Distinguished leaders use creativity effectively to produce optimal results. They are original thinkers manifesting innovation in all walks of business life. They create new meanings, new values, and out of box use cases appealing to their clients. Most of the distinguished leaders are innovators and inventors.

Distinguished leaders catalyze innovation by motivating their teams with creativity to innovate relentlessly. These exceptional leaders create an innovation culture and embed the culture to the ecosystem of business organizations.

Articulating with precision

Leaders must be clear thinkers and communicators.

Distinguished leaders not only think clearly, but they also articulate abstract points and make them understandable by their stakeholders coming from different backgrounds.

These exceptional leaders can customize their messages at all skill levels and for all ages. They communicate complex and complicated matters with confidence, authority, and ease.

Brevity, clarity, and impact are noticeable in their day to day communication. Their feedback is received with respect and graciously sought after by their followers. They serve as communication mentors and coaches for aspiring leaders.

Depicting supportive behavior

All leaders must be supportive.

However, distinguished leaders depict supportive behavior with equality for teams made up of diverse cultures.

Their compassionate, confident, and resilient emotional state support the needs of team members. Therefore they are trusted, respected, and appreciated.

Rather than giving directives and orders, they choose to mentor and coach for the growth of others. They listen with empathy and compassion by deliberately refraining from prejudice and judgement.

Embracing change with agility and optimism

Change can fear most of us. All leaders deal with change.

However, distinguished leaders lead the change with agility and optimism even amid dire situations.

They motivate and even exude passion for others to change and adapt to new situations. They can turn the painful and stressful situations to joyful and exciting engagements.

Learning and delivering rapidly

All leaders must learn quickly, make quick decisions, and act rapidly.

Distinguished leaders not only can learn, decide, and act quickly, but they also can leverage their new learning by practicing immediately for delivering required outcomes from their unique competence and capability.

Their sharp cognitive skills - perhaps physiological abilities such as dense dendrites and enlarged neural pathways in their brains - allow them to produce outstanding outcomes with new learning constructs. While holding the big picture, they can deep dive to see and show the granular details.

Besides, they can turn every possible interaction with stakeholders to a potential learning opportunity. They can naturally take the role of educators. By teaching their team members, they even learn more and faster.

Recognizing the greatness of others

Distinguished leaders have a particular focus on talent.

They know the value proposition of talents required for optimal business results. They serve as talent acquisition experts in large business organizations.

In addition to acquiring talent, they are diligent about keeping talent in a competitive marketplace. Distinguished leaders know that without talent, organizations cannot thrive and be competing in the industry.

What is more exemplary characteristics of these leaders is that they can turn an ordinarily skilled employee to talent by recognizing and supporting their growth with a special focus.

Bringing people together

All leaders have a focus on teamwork.

Distinguished leaders have additional capabilities to bring people from different and diverse backgrounds aiming to work on agreed goals.

These leaders craft and integrate the skills of diverse people to produce optimal results. They act leveraging fusion principles.

Seeing the invisible

Leaders must deal with uncertain situations. There can be a lot of unknowns in their path. The road to success is not linear.

Inevitably, we all have blind spots which can be hazardous in certain circumstances. We cannot see our blind spot unless using specific tools or assistance from someone else.

Spotting blind spots is an area that distinguished leaders play a critical role. They are sharp and quick in identifying blind spots. These leaders can look at things from multiple perspectives. They can quickly look from the top, bottom, and sideways thanks to their exceptionally well developed cognitive abilities.

Measuring with diligence

Leaders need to measure many business factors. For example, they need to measure pace and progress. Without measuring the progress, the outcomes cannot be planned and predicted.

Distinguished leaders apply a wide variety of measuring tools and techniques.

They apply both qualitative and quantitative measures by not merely trusting the data and technology tools.

Influencing by bridging gaps

Thought leadership is a critical requirement and demand for leaders.

Distinguished leaders go beyond thought leadership and influence their stakeholders for making decisions and taking actions.

Since they can detect blind spots and bridge the gaps in perspectives, they can influence the decisions, actions, and outcomes favorably.

Transforming end goals and outcomes

Leaders must think and focus on end goals and outcomes.

Distinguished leaders transform goals and outcomes to their optimal state.

Transformational skills are the most desirable yet most complicated and complex skills that leaders must possess. Distinguished leaders demonstrate transformational skills in all walks of their lives.


In this story, I summarized 12 significant characteristics of outstanding leaders. I named them distinguished leaders. My cross-discipline leadership research included the cognitive, psychological, and business capability traits of these outstanding leaders. This knowledge can be useful for aspiring leaders to add these skills and capabilities to their development programs. These characteristics can also help the executive recruitment agents identify the right candidates for the selection process.

Thank you for reading my perspective.



This content was partially published on another platform and extracted from my leadership books. The link to the original version:


About the Creator

Dr Mehmet Yildiz

I'm a writer and published author with four decades of content development experience in business, technology, leadership, and health. I work as a postdoctoral researcher and consultant. My background is at

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