Global Leadership Blog

Traits of a Global Leader Part I: Know Thyself

I got to thinking recently about what it is that makes for a great global leader. It goes beyond having a title and being in charge of people. What I mean is, being a boss does not make one a leader. So where’s the distinction?

To answer my own question, I started considering the leaders I admire—some I’ve worked with, some I haven’t—and really pondering their unique traits and characteristics. In truth, no two leaders are great in the same way. Some lead through charisma and big personalities, while some quietly inspire confidence. But even in those differences, I could see similarities.

When I boiled it all down to the most essential points, I discovered two sets of traits driving these global leaders: awareness of self, and awareness of others.

Let’s explore those a little bit. We’ll start with awareness of self, and why understanding who you are and how you’re perceived is so important for global leaders.

Cultivate Your Personal Brand

Quick—name a few global leaders who have a clear “brand” all unto themselves. Love them or hate them, people like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and Melissa Meyer know exactly who they are to the public and their employees. They’re always working to preserve and even promote that image. Branson, the larger-than-life innovator, cultivates a persona of the cool dude riding the edge of what’s new. Jobs, the introspective visionary, was famous for his presentation style and black turtleneck/jeans combo.

Being a global leader often thrusts you into the spotlight, and it’s beneficial to carefully consider what image you want to present to the world. Who are you as a global leader? What adjectives describe you, and what leadership style defines you? Do you publicly trumpet your business successes or quietly divert attention to your causes? What is your personal mantra, as a global leader?

The fact is, your public persona has a power all of itself. Don’t ignore it; embrace it. Give it the same careful thought and consideration you give to your business. I’m not saying to become a caricature. Just make sure you know who you are and what impression you project to the world.

Have A Point of View and Stick to It

I was recently working with the CEO of a smaller software company. He boldly states his position in every keynote or speaking engagement: He’s firm on the importance of Internet freedom and privacy. It’s a little bit controversial, but it shows true confidence to proselytize one’s opinions.

Part of developing your personal brand is knowing yourself and what’s important to you as a leader, in the business world and outside of it. Don’t be afraid to strongly support or defend the things that are most meaningful to you. Bill Gates vocally supports giving away wealth in the name of charity, and publicly calls out other billionaires to challenge them to do the same.

Branson has always had outlandish predictions for his products taking over market leaders. Though he’s not always right, his confidence in his business endeavors is inspiring. Branson and Bezos both jumped into the space travel conversation, believing that such a remarkable opportunity should be open to the public. A few years ago, people openly laughed at such a notion. Now, a spaceport has been built in New Mexico and Branson’s Virgin Galactic has had over 550 people pay upwards of $200,000 for the opportunity to travel to space.

Having a point of view is vital to the awareness of self in global leaders. It offers a rallying point and a clear voice to those under your leadership and those eyeing what you do as a leader.

Awareness of others is just as vital as awareness of self. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Traits of a Global Leader, where I’ll talk about the traits great global leaders exhibit when handling specific situations as well as how they adapt to different environments.

For more on Global Leadership, see

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication. More About Melissa Lamson


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