It is no doubt a great leader directly impacts the business, for better or for worse.

1 in 3 employees don’t trust their leaders

There is more to leadership than being the smartest or most charismatic individual in a room. Leaders influence and inspire through action. They determine the company culture from the top-down. But what truly makes a leader great? And why is great leadership so important?  

According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, 1 in 3 employees don’t trust their leaders. This lack of trust in leadership has a direct impact on retention, job satisfaction, and overall performance, which influences the company’s success. In fact, 79% of employees quit their jobs due to a lack of appreciation from leaders. It is no doubt a great leader directly impacts the business, for better or for worse.

What are the traits of a good leader?

  1. Emotional Intelligence: This includes self-awareness, empathy, communication skills, and the ability to be vulnerable and ask for help when needed. Emotional intelligence means recognizing that different people require different styles of management and adjusting based on the individual.
  2. Competence: Leaders must know what they are doing and be able to do it well. You cannot get a promotion or get to the top of a company without having the skills to do the job itself. Competence is an essential leadership trait.  
  3. Charisma: It’s not always what you say that matters; it’s how you say it. Charisma on its own is not enough for great leadership, but a great leader does need the skills to inspire others. Martin Luther King Jr. is an example of a great leader because of his ability to move people in an authentic way.
  4. Vision: A great leader needs to be able to see the big picture. Vision enables the leader to make strategic, long-term decisions, especially in the heat of the moment. Having a clear vision keeps a leader motivated and helps them stay true to their mission.
  5. Integrity: Integrity is essential to great leadership. This requires honesty, openness, and trust. It means a leader acts in ways that align with their values and has a strong moral compass.
  6. Decisiveness: Often, leaders will have to make the decisions that others don’t want to make. Great leaders are also not afraid to ask for input to ensure they have all the information necessary before finalizing a decision.
  7. Innovative: It’s important for great leaders to be innovative and to inspire innovation in their employees. It may be comfortable to follow the status quo, but greatness doesn’t come from comfort. Innovation is also profitable. According to a Booz & Co. report, innovation organizations saw 11% more revenue and 22% more growth than their counterparts. 
  8. Risk-Taking: Innovation also requires taking risks. Risk-taking does not mean reckless decision-making, however. It means having the ability to make an informed and calculated risk, assessing whether the cost outweighs the benefit. Further, research shows that leaders who take risks are better liked by their employees, regardless of the outcome of their decision. 
  9. Invest in People: To lead people is to invest in them. All great leaders value their employees and their continuous growth as well as their own. The people are the company’s greatest asset, and great leaders know this.
  10. Holistic Health: A burnt-out leader is an absent leader. Those who care about their overall well-being such as their diet, exercise, sleep, and work-life balance are not only helping their own performance but are setting a better example for their employees. Moreover, research shows that self-care improves performance and productivity.

These ten traits are some of the core values of great leadership. All of these are important to inspire loyalty, trust, and retention in the workplace.

Lastly, what’s most essential is a leader who cares, whether that’s about their people, the business, or their overarching mission. Passion is contagious, and that is what true leadership inspires. 

As the age-old saying goes, ‘If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life’. But how true is it? For most people, loving what you do comes at a cost. And loving what you do may not be as fulfilling as you’re led to believe.

90,000 hours of your life

It is natural for humans to search for meaning in their careers, especially when most of the waking day is spent at work. In fact, the average person spends 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, which is one-third of a life. That is a lot of time that could either be soul-fuelling or soul-destroying. However, building a life that you love involves more than simply enjoying your day job. For some, benefits, stability, and the ability to spend time with loved ones and shut off at the end of the day are far more rewarding than loving the work itself.

Should you quit your job to pursue your dreams? You might want to consider what it means before jet-setting across the world.

Where Did the Idea of ‘Loving the Work You Do’ Originate?

Sarah Jaffe, author of Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, explains how the slogan, ‘If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life’ originated from a time when women were expected to do unpaid labour in the domestic space under the guise that it is ‘natural’ for women to enjoy this type of work. In creative pursuits, artists were underpaid or not paid at all because their work was seen as their passion and therefore, the reward was in the making.

‘Loving the work you do’ was a way to exploit workers, and it still is. Many creative jobs do not pay well. It may be appealing to quit your 9-5 in the hopes of living the digital nomad lifestyle, but the reality is often much bleaker than it appears. For entrepreneurs, the idea of starting a business may appeal for similar reasons — flexible working hours, control over one’s own time, passion, and potential to earn more — but those benefits often do not come until years later.

Why Doing What You Love Doesn’t Always Pan Out


It can be exciting to take the leap and pursue your passion, but managing expectations is essential. First, doing what you love may require sacrifices in other areas of life. This may mean working longer hours, working on weekends, and accepting little to no monetary reward at the outset. Further, research shows that 60% of businesses fail in the first three years. If your dream is to be your own boss, accept that it may take a lot of trial and error before achieving that status.

For entrepreneurs and creatives especially, doing what you love can also be incredibly lonely. Humans need social interaction. According to a Harvard Business Review study, half of CEOs experience loneliness in their careers, with first-time CEOS the most susceptible. There are ways to combat feelings of isolation such as forming communities outside work and with other like-minded individuals. But it may be worthwhile to assess whether an environment that provides social interaction is a non-negotiable.

What Are Some Ways to Pursue a Life You Love?

First, don’t quit your job without a plan. Always have a safety net in case it doesn’t work out. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs explains that our basic needs must be met before we can achieve self-actualization. You will not enjoy the work you do if you cannot afford to put food on the table.

Second, it’s also important to consider your desired lifestyle and what kind of career can provide that. For example, if ‘doing good’ is a core value, then you may have to accept a downgrade in pay. If work-life balance is important, then perhaps working for a 9-5 at a medium-sized corporation rather than pursuing a passion is more in alignment with the life you want.

Lastly, work is not the only means to living a life you love. It’s important to diversify your interests to ensure your whole identity doesn’t revolve around your career. This can include hobbies, side gigs, passion projects, spending time with family and friends, or even physical activity.

“When you have money, it’s always smart to diversify your investments. That way if one of them goes south, you don’t lose everything. It’s also smart to diversify your identity, to invest your self-esteem and what you care about into a variety of different areas — business, social life, relationships, philanthropy, athletics — so that when one goes south, you’re not completely screwed over and emotionally wrecked.”

Tim Ferris

How Can You Find Meaning in Your Work?

Ikigai is a Japanese term roughly translated as ‘a reason for being’. It is often represented as a Venn diagram (shown below) as a guide for discovering your life’s purpose. Your Ikigai is doing what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.

A key component of Ikigai is the ability to see the direct impact of your work. Ikigai can even increase longevity. Japanese Okinawans who embody Ikigai are known to live well past the age of 100.

Finding your Ikigai does not need to be in a grandiose way either. In fact, humans have the incredible ability to create meaning out of even the most mundane, or awful, of circumstances. In Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote after enduring the concentration camps, he explains:

“To choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone…It is this spiritual freedom — which cannot be taken away — that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”

Viktor Frankl

Perhaps the answer is to focus less on loving the work you do and more on doing work that is meaningful.