Guest Post by Mark Miller

Thanks to my friend Mark Miller for allowing me to share his wonderful post with you!

(Originally published at

The Most Important Part of Leadership

Most leaders don’t understand what REALLY determines their success. We mistakenly believe our trajectory is determined by what we can do. This is a half-truth. As I look back on my career, I’m not sure when I discovered this – regrettably, it was MUCH later than I should have. Do you know what is required to be a great leader?

I believe the iceberg is the perfect metaphor for leadership. Think back to 5th grade… Do you remember how much of the iceberg is above the waterline? Yes, about 10%. The other 90% is below the waterline.

The portion of our leadership most easily seen by others is the 10% – this represents our leadership skills. Certainly, no one wants to follow a leader who cannot lead! The ability to cast vision, engage people, allocate resources, reinvent the systems and processes that move us toward the future, and more are critical for leadership success. However, and this is where leaders often get derailed, we forget these essential skills represent only 10% of the success equation. The other 90% is determined below the waterline…

Ultimately, our leadership character determines our leadership success.

You may be skeptical. You may believe you can be successful based on your skills alone. Be careful. What trips up most leaders and limits their impact and influence are issues of the heart. Our actions flow from below the waterline. If your heart is not right, no one cares about your skills.

Below are a few questions to help you see below the waterline in your own life:

  • Are you open to coaching and feedback? Do you seek it out or wait for it to manifest itself? Would people describe you as a life-long learner?
  • Do you see the best in people and circumstances? Do you find the good in difficult circumstances? Are you grounded in reality?
  • How quickly do you give praise? How often do you accept responsibility when something goes wrong or fails to meet expectations?
  • Would your team describe you as a courageous leader? Are you willing to take an unpopular stand on issues? Are you willing to act alone if necessary?
  • Do you put the needs of others ahead of your own? Are you a serving leader or a self-serving leader? Would your team say you think others first?

Don’t forget, our people see our leadership character on display every day.

Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs. 

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