My training academy offers management development programs for executives and professionals. I am constantly tweaking these programs to reflect the latest developments. As such, I am conducting a lot of research, follow trainings, read books about characteristics of leaders and leadership.

Check, check, double check

I am always intrigued by articles with titles such as the 7 most important characteristics of modern-day leaders, or 5 behaviors of leaders who embrace change. What actually intrigues me is the amount of views, likes and comments these articles receive.

Why is this? Is great leadership a checklist? Check, check, check, yes… I am a great leader! 

These checklists do have an advantage: the ability to compare and discover common themes among them.


Literally every journal, book, article or post I read about leaders or leadership state that a great leader is self-aware. A leader has good self-insight. This means that he or she not only has knowledge of his or her competences, but also of shortcomings. Only someone who is self-aware, is able to stand very firm and can lead him- or herself and can serve others through his or her leadership.

Over the years, multiple tests have been developed to help provide insight into personal development such as Insights Discovery, MBTI, Management Drives, DISC and Big 5. Personally, I am a big fan of using Insights Discovery as a starting point.

Yes, you read it correctly, I prefer using it as a starting point. The advantage of such a test to me is the initial quick insights it generates on someone’s behavioral preferences. The disadvantage to me is the risk of putting each other in boxes. True self-awareness requires uncovering more layers such as uncovering someone’s true thoughts and feelings, beliefs/ mindset, values and priorities and unmet needs. 

Management development

When developing a management development program, I always differentiate between leader development and leadership development derived from David V. Day’s article ‘leadership development: a review in context’.

Leader development focuses on the person, is intrapersonal and focuses on self-awareness, self-regulation and self-motivation.

Leadership development focuses on the social aspect. It is much more relational and focuses on social awareness (such as empathy, service orientation and political awareness) and social skills (such as building bonds, team orientation, change catalyst and conflict management).

Great managers are authentic, modest, appreciative, courageous, have stewardship, perseverance, give and take responsibility, can empower and forgive others, are visionary and impactful. Oops, there is the list again… but, to all you managers out there, are you able to demonstrate most of these behavioral aspects? How well do you really know yourself?