What It Takes to Be a Remarkable Leader

The path to effective leadership is laced with joys and challenges. In Your First Leadership Job , Tacy M. Byham and Richard S. Wellins paint a clear picture of what it takes to become a truly remarkable leader—one called a catalyst—who ignites energy, passion and commitment in others.

Catalyst leaders represent the gold standard. They are energetic, supportive, forward-thinking mentors who spark great things in others. Catalysts help people and organizations grow by intentionally pursuing goals that stretch their skills and test their mettle. And, catalyst leaders are opportunity creators—they open doors of opportunity for others.

Becoming a catalyst is hard work, whether or not you are a new leader or more experienced. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. A strong passion to become a great leader is one of their common characteristics. They are always working to build and improve their leadership skills, but they are also introspective. They take the time for contemplation and assess ways in which they can be better.

Development Dimensions International (DDI) has amassed data from hundreds of job analyses in almost every industry all over the world, looking to identify the factors that differentiated average from outstanding leader performance. From the results, a Success ProfileSM was created, and there are four components to a success profile for a frontline leader:

1. Organizational knowledge—what a person knows (e.g. company products/services)

2. Experience—what a person has done in the past (e.g. served on a special project team)

3. Competencies—what a person is capable of (e.g. groups of like skills and behaviors, such as coaching or decision-making)

4. Personal attributes—who a person is, or personality (e.g. personality characteristics, such as a strong learning orientation)

The frontline leadership profile can serve to point you in the right direction. Use it to compare how you stack up against the profile and as a tool to guide your growth and development. Note which components below represent strengths and which represent development needs. Then use your strengths to your advantage and develop those elements where you are not as strong.


• In-depth knowledge of your company’s products, services and customers
• Understanding of how your team fits into the overall organization
• Familiar with various company policies/processes
• Business acumen, including understanding company strategy, competition, supply chain, financial metrics
• Knowledge of your chosen field (e.g. finance, marketing, IT)


• Leading a cross-functional or special team
• Providing feedback to others
• Coaching/mentoring
• Planning and managing complex projects
• Working closely with internal/external customers
• Making difficult decisions
• Having functional experience in one or more disciplines (e.g. sales, IT, R&D)
• Navigating organization politics


• Building trust
• Delegating responsibility
• Planning and organizing
• Selecting talent
• Facilitating change
• Decision-making
• Coaching
• Fostering innovation
• Building a successful team
• Creating networks


• Enjoys being with other people
• Desire to continually learn
• High achievement orientation/driver for results
• Sensitive to the needs/concerns of others

• Always seeking praise and approval from others
• Overly self-confident, dismissive of others’ ideas
• Inability to read others’ intentions
• Indecisive, can’t make decisions
• Micromanaging/controlling others
• Difficulty controlling emotions

Think about where you are in your leadership journey and remember: The journey to being a catalyst leader is long—and the road can be challenging. But the rewards along the way are so worth it if you’ve chosen to be a leader for the right reasons.

Do you have what it takes to lead? Check out 6 qualities of a leader in the making to find out what distinguishes a top producer from a promising leader.


Tacy M. Byham, Ph.D., is the CEO of Development Dimensions International (DDI). An expert in unique solutions to address talent management challenges, Tacy brings her experiences in assessment centers, 360s, development planning and customized leadership solutions to maximize growth for individuals across the leadership pipeline. Tacy is an energetic and thought-provoking presenter at industry conferences and events including ATD (formerly ASTD) International Conference and Exposition, and numerous Conference Board events. Her keynote speeches have included topics such as innovation, mid-level leadership, mentoring and the benefits of gender diversity. Her new book, Your First Leadership Job, coauthored with Rich Wellins, was released in 2015 to excellent reviews.

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