“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Albert Einstein

Five Fundamentals of Leadership

These five fundamentals of leadership aim to provide some form of coherent guidance to support the development of senior leaders. They are designed to help those assigned a leadership role unlock their full potential as a leader.

The German philosopher Hegel once pointed out that one cannot eat fruit – it is only possible, he says, to eat, pears, bananas and so on. Viewed in this way, leadership is seen as a general, descriptive term that offers little help to those who need to know what they must do in order to improve as a leader.

To unlock leadership in ourselves, we need to identify the specific
apples and pears of leadership and thereby be able to collect and use them to provide the sustenance needed to grow and maintain good or great leadership practice.

By developing these fundamentals, we address the basis to become an effective leader. The five fundamentals are:

  • Personal Qualities
 –Demonstrating integrity, competence, judgement, decisiveness and behavioural flexibility as a leader


  • Purpose – Articulating clear mission, vision, values and outcomes in a way that will inspire others to follow


  • Positioning
 – Knowing and understanding the context of the internal and external environment and formulating winning strategies to realise the vision and achieve goals


  • People
 – Engaging, motivating, empowering and supporting people to develop in their roles and execute strategies and plans where they have a contribution to make


  • Performance – Planning, making things happen, reviewing progress and getting results.

These fundamentals are not frozen in a static model – they are in constant evolution. They are affected by ever changing environmental forces. These five fundamentals are a checklist against which you can test your leadership practices.

Using another metaphor, keeping faith with the five fundamentals
is like the performance act of spinning plates. As each plate is
given attention it speeds up and remains stable and afloat. Without
attention, the others slow down, wobble and crash. The leadership role requires a great deal of skill and attention to keep all the plates spinning and therefore to maintain the momentum needed to make the whole act a success.


In terms of Personal Qualities, a leader needs to:

A leader needs to have well developed emotional and social intelligence. This is the ability to determine the requirement for leadership in a particular situation and select an appropriate response. This means being self-aware, self-managed and proficient in the exercise of key social skills such as communication, motivation and influence.

  • Be enthusiastic and positive about the organisation and its mission
  • Have emotional intelligence with evident self awareness and self control
  • Apply social intelligence and have the range of social skills needed to influence others
  • Take care of his/her own physical and mental health and well-being
  • Work to a strong set of values, especially in relation to integrity and fairness
  • Demonstrate competency and political astutenessin dealing with difficult and complex situations and issues
  • Identify key influencers and decision-makers and build good relationships with them
  • Adapt to deal with different people and situations and use a variety of leadership styles as required
  • Follow through on decisions made and make sure action is taken and reported on
  • Use feedback to know, develop and manage him or herself as a leader.


In terms of Purpose a leader needs to:

A leader must have or find a compelling vision and a clear sense of purpose if others are to be inspired. The vision needs to elicit passion if it is to attract followers. A leader should set a small number of important and challenging goals that give meaning to the vision. Studies show that leaders who model positive values gain the commitment of followers towards the organisation’s purpose and goals.

  • Be positive about the future in a way that gets buy-in and excites others
  • Establish and describe a clear sense of purpose or mission
  • Be able to articulate and share his or her vision that can be expressed in under two minutes
  • Ensure that their team and other stakeholders are informed and appropriately involved in the envisioning process
  • Establish specific outcomes, expressed in a way that is understood and can be acted on by others
  • Cascade a sense of purpose in a way that provides meaning and direction at all levels (organisation, team and individual)
  • Create time and space for others to take in and understand the vision from their position and in their setting
  • Be adaptable and prepared to challenge and change their vision and goals as circumstances change
  • Ensure that strategies are in place that are clearly aligned to vision, values and goals
  • Model a desirable the organisational culture by establishing a set of core values that apply to all, including the leader.


In terms of Positioning a leader needs to:

A leader must position the organisation within the prevailing context, by monitoring the surrounding situation with reference to both the internal and external environment. Positioning an organisation or team within it means exercising strategic leadership and therefore providing direction for others. This must result in a clear strategy and when necessary a repositioning to cope with disruption and change.

  • Continually scan, assess and help interpret the meaning of events in the wider environment
  • Be open to and bring forward ideas and opportunities for discussion
  • Stay up-to-date by interacting with knowledgeable people and events in the wider environment
  • Network and encourage others to network, so that the team is kept informed about the external environment and market trends
  • Develop a strategy for the organisation/team, preferably co-created
  • Look to the future in a way that raises questions about whether or not the organisation or team will need to change its strategy
  • Challenge the way things are in a constructive and positive manner
  • Be creative and look for ways to innovate by suggesting or accepting new ways of doing things
  • Encourage others to experiment with innovative approaches and take calculated risk
  • Be personally involved in endorsing and cascading the organisation’s strategy so that all stakeholders understand it in a way that has meaning for them.


In terms of People a leader needs to:

A leader must understand others and how they view the world around them. A leader needs to build high quality relationships with followers, as individuals, as well as in groups and teams. This requires high levels of engagement.

  • Act as a positive role model to others – lead by example in matters of interpersonal relations
  • Make sure others know and act in line with agreed values, attitudes and behaviours
  • Energise people by creating an atmosphere and environment they find enabling and empowering
  • Make sure that individuals know what is expected of them int heir role
  • Build appropriate, high quality relationships with individual team members
  • Foster collaboration, mutual trust and cooperation across the team
  • Create a sense of common identity, commitment and optimism in the team
  • Take time out to support, develop and recognise people as individuals
  • Give people a voice – show that their opinions count – and that it is ok to challenge and speak out
  • Find ways to celebrate success e.g. small wins such as project milestones.


In terms of Performance a leader needs to:

A leader needs to make sure that plans and resources are in place to enable people to translate strategy into action. This is about delivery. People need to know what is expected of them if they are to work energetically and collaboratively towards a common purpose. A leader should seek to enable and empower people (in teams and as individuals) if they are to be able to participate and indeed innovate, in helping to achieve results. In terms of performance improvement, the leader must also ensure that feedback is given on performance.

  • Makesure that SMART plans are in place for individuals and teams
  • Ensure that policies, processes and resources are in place to support plans
  • Know how plans will be achieved by ensuring everyone operates to some form of ‘plan-do-review’ cycle
  • Get people to talk about plans and progress made against them on a regular basis
  • Focus on getting results through people by supporting them and recognising their contribution
  • Ensure that activities are assigned to ‘responsible owners’ who are held accountable for performance
  • Track performance and give people feedback on their performance, with special attention to positive feedback
  • Be prepared to challenge por performance and coach for improved performance at individual and team levels
  • Offer support and guidance to individuals through regular one-to-one review sessions that incorporate personal development planning
  • Make a point of periodically reporting back to people on the overall performance of their team and the organisation.


“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four Cs. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

Walt Disney


About Luis Soares Costa

From the very beginning, coaching has always been at the core of my passions.

For the past 38 years I have been an Executive and Team Coach working globally with CEOs and their C-Suite Executives, Business Owners and top talent in a significant number of the major global companies (including a significant number of Fortune 500), innovative companies operating in new ecosystems and dynamic family owned businesses.

During the past 28 years, I have also been an Executive and Team Coach and a “consultant to consultants” developing partners and top talent at major consultancies, Big4 Firms and Legal Firms

As an Executive and Team Coach, I partner with you and/or your teams in a “real play” thought-provoking and creative process which inspires you to “connect the dots” and maximize your personal and professional potential. The aim of the partnership is to bring about a sustained behavioral and performance transformation and profoundly shift the quality of your and your team’s working and personal life, whilst maximizing your potential and generating sustainable value.

You can contact me at coach@LuisSoaresCosta.com and visit my Website at www.LuisSoaresCosta.com