As I look around the world today I realise there has never been a greater need for real, practical, inspiring leadership. There are too many people floating around with outdated leadership theories or worse, people who have been appointed into leadership positions but have no real substance as leaders.

I started to think about some of the world’s greatest leaders from the past and the characteristics that made these ordinary people so amazing. To me they all had traits of my motto “Dream, Build, Inspire, Lead!” and it just goes to show that anyone has the potential of becoming a great leader, if you follow a few simple rules.

Dream Great Dreams

Great leaders always had a dream, or a vision for how they saw the world and they never detracted from that vision no matter what happened to them or the environment around them. They protected their dream and shielded it against the naysayers until one day their dream was ready to see the light of day. 

Build Amazing Things

Great leaders took their vision and turned that into reality by building something amazing around that vision. They might have built an organisation or business, or perhaps they formed a community or a tribe. Regardless of what they built, they built something amazing to support their vision and prove that it could be done.

Inspire Those Around You

Great leaders are a constant source of inspiration for those around them. In order to get people to buy into their vision they need to inspire people in various ways. Sharing real stories that connected with people’s hearts helped attract more and more people into their vision.

Lead Through Motivation

Great leaders might have used the old school method of leading by example but if you dug a little bit deeper you would have realised that they actually led through motivation. People confuse motivation and inspiration all the time. Inspiration is the feeling that you get when you hear how someone has overcome an obstacle that is relevant to you. Motivation is working out why you should do the same in your own life. To motivate someone you need to find out about their world. What are their deepest fears? What are their dreams? What do they care about the most? etc. Great leaders use the answers to these questions to help lead people to better places. It’s the combination of inspiration and motivation that makes them great leaders.

You might have noticed while talking about the characteristics of great leaders, I haven’t actually mentioned any by name. That’s because great leaders are an incredibly personal thing. My idea of a great leader might not be yours and vice versa. But I’m sure if you think about someone who you admire as a great leader, I guarantee they will be have these exact same four traits because they are universal. 

The Dream, Build, Inspire, Lead! philosophy has been my mantra for years now and since 2007 I’ve been blogging about it over at Dream, Build, Inspire, Lead!.com  I’m thrilled to be taking some of the lessons from that blog and sharing them here with you to inspire you to become better leaders yourself. Because let’s face it, our current leaders aren’t doing such a great job but it’s not their fault. They have the weight of the world on their shoulders and they don’t really know how to cope with it themselves so are dropping the ball all over the place.

So we can sit here and complain or rise up as leaders ourselves and take control of the situation. Play a small part by leading ourselves, and those around us no matter how micro the opportunity to lead may be. That’s how you achieve change in the world. You take action. Go be a leader and make a difference to someone.

Wishing you nothing but success in business and life,


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AJ Kulatunga is a keynote speaker who inspires conversations around Disruption, The Changing World and Entrepreneurial Thinking to help Leaders navigate change. See AJ Speak