What Makes a Great Leader?

By | November 9, 2020

[November 9, 2020]  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a short article that outlined what I believed to be the 20 top characteristics of a great leader.1  A week later, political reporter Byron York at the Washington Examiner wrote that “exit pollsters” listed four qualities of a President.  We both compared Joe Biden and Donald Trump.2

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams, xx President of the United States

I’ll begin by noting that I no longer trust national polling firms or those that purport to gather data on political topics.  There is a bias in their results that skew any good look at their case.  I’ll address that later in this article.

However, I will report this one because it aligns well with my earlier article.  Here are the results of what those exiting the polls say, according to the Washington Examiner, between Biden and Trump in order of importance:

  1. A strong leader: Trump 71, Biden 28 percent
  2. Has good judgment: Biden 68, Trump 27 percent
  3. Cares about people like me: Biden 50, Trump 48 a virtual tie
  4. Can unite the country: Biden 76, Trump 23 percent

Compare this with my list of the top four traits:

  1. Experienced judgment
  2. Being present and visible
  3. Clear vision
  4. Drives a positive culture

Are they similar?  Yes, of course, they are similar, but there are also fundamental differences that go to the heart of the media’s bias.  I will agree that “caring about people like me” is crucial for any leader.  I often write about it and have reported that it is the most important trait of a good leader (see here, here, and here).  So, there is little disagreement here.  I gave Trump the edge in all four of these traits.

But York lists “can unite the country” as essential.  This is a nebulous idea without much real meaning.  It is not surprising, so many would agree with it.  Yet, we are left to define it ourselves intellectually, and it looks really important.  We could ask, who, in their right mind, would disagree with it?  Doesn’t decisiveness, inspiration, honesty, humility, and commitment factor into this idea?  I think, yes.

Despite the inherent biases shown in reporter York’s article, it nevertheless highlights something important about the current election process (that remains undecided as of this writing).


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/leadership-comparison-biden-vs-trump/
  2. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/byron-yorks-daily-memo-where-things-stand-today
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “What Makes a Great Leader?

  1. Purse 5

    These are all great qualities of a leader. The real trick is figuring out to recognize them and then how to implement a strategy to exercise them correctly.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      Yep, posted it on my refrig. Got a couple of them there. My kids get to read what I post on the refrig…they can’t keep their fingers off it so now they read these articles before they get to eat. Ha Ha Ha HAaaa.

  2. Darryl Sitterly

    “Caring for others” is the top leader trait. I agree. I also think that people are hypnotized into thinking some people are better leaders than others and when the real leading has to occur it does not and they are disappointed in their leader choice. That will happen in this case where Biden is elected but will NOT provide any leadership. Maybe I’m wrong and am too pessimistic. Let’s see what he is like when he talks without a teleprompter.

    1. Martin Shiell

      Maybe we should call Joe Biden’s leadership — wait for it — wait for it — “teleprompter leadership.” Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Haaaaa

      1. Ed Berkmeister

        Martin, try not to write this too early in the morning. I nearly barfed my cereal breakfast up thru my nose. LOL.

      2. Orange Man

        Very funny Martin. Getting back to the issue of ‘caring’ about other people (those that follow a leader), I think this is the most crucial trait of all. Why else would anyone follow someone that is a leader? So, I agree with the Washington Examiner article in this respect. I also suggest we read Gen. Satterfield’s earlier blog postings on this topic.

  3. Lady Hawk

    Good article. Thanks for the comparison, Gen. Satterfield. This is way I keep reading your articles. However, I think you underestimated the rest of your earlier article. The list of 20 leader traits is superior to anything else I’ve seen anywhere. Keep up the great work.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      Yes, both articles compliment one another. I also recommend following the links that Gen. Satterfield is giving us. They also add significantly to a fuller understanding of what he is getting at.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    Good comparison, Gen. Satterfield, betw/ what you wrote and the Washington Examinor’s reporter. I would suggest that everyone is interested in leadership and cannot turn their eyes away from a truly great leader. IMO, Trump is the better leader. No one who can tell the truth would deny it. Biden is a shell of a man who he used to be and he used to be nothing much. We are in for a “dark winter” (Biden’s terminology) and it will be him and K. Harris that bring it on.

    1. Eric Coda

      Yes, Willie, I afraid you might be right. Here’s the deal, Biden and Harris will put the USA in a big funk with increased unemployment, lockdowns, reeducation of our children into neo-Marxist ideologies, more defund the police, rioting encouraged, and sucking up to China. It will take a decade to get back to where the USA is today. My prediction only. Appreciate Gen Doug Satterfield’s article that got my thinking cap on straight and working again.

    2. Jonathan B.

      Well said Eric and Willie. Scary stuff coming out of the Biden-Harris camp these days. We are indeed in for a dark winter.

      1. Karl J.

        My prediction is that Biden will not last one year in the White House for either physical or mental reasons. But he is an empty shell anyway and it doesn’t really matter. His strings are being pulled by radical leftists.

      2. Linux Man

        What makes for a great leader is the real question here and comparing Biden and Trump is helpful only in that it gives us a better understanding of what leadership is about and not about. Humans expect leadership and they get it — for good or for bad.

  5. Stacey Borden

    If find it interesting that anyone in the media – particularly in social media – would be interested in leadership. They are more about being on their socialist train with people who they like but cannot compete with in their ideological purity.

    1. Max Foster

      Ideological purity is what it’s about, I think I agree but I’ll take it one step further. Leftist must always stay on the cutting edge of their PC culture because if they don’t, they’ll be ‘cancelled’ (or so they believe). Their values and political positions are always changing becuase there is no set value system for them. There is no grounding and there is no solid foundation for what they think or believe….. must be a terrible place to be.

      1. JT Patterson

        With all our schools turning out little non-thinking robots that spew political checklists, no wonder we are entering a new era of Nazi-like book burnings.

        1. Greg Heyman

          Great analogy and one that needs to be made often. Look at Gen. Satterfield’s Daily Favorites and the articles about voter fraud that got banned from Facebook. Facebook is just like the Nazis in their suppression of books (read that as ideas.).

      2. Yusaf from Texas

        Yep, that is what I see as the beginning of an ideological slide that no one knows where we will end up.

  6. Audrey

    Looks like someone from a media outlet might have an inkling of what leadership is about, but I doubt that is really true.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.