Leadership Virtuosos: Five Ways to Become a Great Leader

Virtuosos are, by definition, people who are skilled in their respective fields. The word originates from the Latin word “virtus,” which translates to “excellence.” Leadership virtuosos are, therefore, people who are excellent at leading others. But how does one become a leadership virtuoso?

Through my experience as a Master Vistage Chair in NYC and as a retired CEO, I’ve had many opportunities to speak with leadership virtuosos and experts in their fields. As a result, I’ve been able to narrow down the top five ways to become a greater leader.

1. Find Your Passion

The first way to become a great leader is to be passionate about your business. True leadership virtuosos have an internal drive, or a motivating desire, to lead their organization to success. This often relates to the idea of having a noble cause.

Dr. Lee Thayer, leadership expert, within his book “Leadership Virtuosity: A Trove of Virtuoso Ideas,” states that leadership virtuosos “are driven by something that has them in a thrall. They do not ‘have’ lust. They are had by it — by the absolute necessity to achieve their aims in life.”

Every leadership virtuoso I’ve ever met has had a clear passion for their business and the work they do. It is therefore crucial for someone aiming to be a great leader to find their passion and follow it.

2. Do Not Focus on Profits

Leadership virtuosos do not conduct business for the purpose of earning money. Rather, they do what they do because they are dedicated for the good of the world, not for money or fame. When leaders focus less on profits and more on things like decision-making and improving company culture, they become more successful in leading their companies in the direction they would like. Focusing on profits often limits the scope of a business leader, and reduces them to simple statistics and figures, rather than the well-rounded virtuoso they could become.

3. Surround Yourself With Other Leaders

The third best way to become a great leader is to surround yourself with other leaders. Dr. Lee Thayer has spent a great deal of time with various business leaders. One thing he found that they all have in common is that they all appreciate the value of surrounding oneself with other leadership virtuosos. Leadership is fostered by a community, as there cannot exist a leader without any supporters. In other words, each true leader understands that, to be a great leader, one must be surrounded by people with similar views and motivations. Otherwise, the leadership will fall flat.

For this reason, to become a great leader, one must promote similar ideas and motivations within their organization, and encourage employees to adhere to the same values as the company. This promotes a productive and effective work environment, one which is conducive to successful leadership.

4. Practice

There are leadership virtuosos in every field imaginable. Whether you’re an athlete, a musician, a teacher, or another professional, chances are that leadership plays a large role in your career.

However, despite the differences between these industries, what each leadership virtuoso in their respective field has in common is that they understand the importance of practice. In other words, they understand that there is always something they can improve upon.

Dr. Thayer, within “Leadership Virtuosity, says that virtuosity is a habit. He writes that virtuosity is “not something to be achieved, but a way of life. One develops the habits that fuel and enable a de-centered, ongoing critique of the pursuit of virtuosity, and those habits take over. Once on that path, there can be no deviation.”

While there is a distinction between habits and practices, if you aim to be a great leader, you must put in the time and effort to hone your leadership skills. Practices are more intentional, while habits are more reflexive. Both rely on repetition and diligence. Either way, regardless of your approach, to be a great leader, you must possess the understanding that you will never truly be done improving upon yourself and your leadership skills.

5. Learning

Similar to practicing leadership, the final way to become a great leader is to continue learning. Because leadership virtuosos focus on things bigger than just profits or fame, they have more time and resources to focus on what really matters — continuing to grow, both personally and professionally.

Like how you must practice leadership, you must also be open to learning. Being a leader in your day-to-day life will do little to teach you about the importance of leadership if you are not open-minded and willing to learn more about what you can improve upon. Great leaders not only understand that they make mistakes, but learn from their mistakes as well. If you aim to be a leadership virtuoso, you must pay close attention to your own shortcomings and work to learn from them.

Though it can be difficult to achieve this, since virtuosos, by nature, aim for perfection, it must be understood that success will not come without failure, and therefore, without learning.

Bottom Line:

There exists a fine line between good leaders and great leaders — between everyday business leaders and leadership virtuosos. However, it is possible to narrow the gap between good and great, through various methods of honing leadership skills.

In order to become a great leader, one must find their passion, focus on more important things than money, surround themself with other leaders, practice leadership, and learn from their mistakes. With the help of my Vistage groups, and these tips and tricks, there is no reason you can’t become a leadership virtuoso yourself and lead your organization toward success.