Three Priorities of a Great Leader

Three Priorities of a Great Leader

Quinn McDowell 4 min read

Warm Up

The formula for great leadership can be boiled down to three simple expectations. Admittedly, leadership as a concept can be challenging to grasp at times. It can be difficult to define what makes a good leader because definitions differ depending on who you ask. In other words, strong leadership can mean different things to different people.

When we transition away from talking about leadership as a concept and move towards defining expectations of leaders themselves, clarity follows. Expectations give us a clear picture of the type of people we need to become while defining the effectiveness of our leadership in tangible ways. That brings us to the three non-negotiable expectations of leaders.


The three expectations of leaders are simple. Leaders that are perpetually pursuing excellence should always be expected to do these things: communicate with clarity, work with energy, and produce results. Clarity, energy, and results are the expectations that ensure leaders have a lasting and dynamic impact on people around them.

The first expectation is clarity. Clarity can manifest itself in a myriad of different ways when it comes to the task of leadership, but clarity most prominently comes through in how a leader communicates with their team. Clarity of communication is essential to cultivating a synergistic culture within your team. It provides critical direction, clarifies expectations, and helps team members work with efficiency and confidence. Leaders that communicate with precision and truthfulness set the precedent for a culture of accountability.

For example, a good coach will communicate clearly regarding how their team will handle disagreements between teammates. The question of how teammates respond to one-another will have already been answered before the team steps into competition. How many times have you seen teams that resort to poor body language and frustration when things don’t go their way during a game? A strong leader will snuff that out due to the clarity of expectations they set with their team. Clarity raises the bar of accountability because the standards for “how we do things here” has already been set. A leader that strives for clarity, will reap the long-term benefits through a strong culture of accountability that leads the group toward the pursuit of common goals.

The second expectation of leadership is to bring great energy to everything they do. Energy is the fuel that propels a team towards the realization of its goals. As one author put it:

“Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Energy is contagious, and energy leads to enthusiasm. It is the leader’s job to infect each member of their team with enthusiasm towards the realization of the team’s goals. The amount of energy injected into team culture has a direct impact on the culture or “mojo” of the group. Similar to how an experienced DJ knows when to play the perfect song to make the party go to another level, an experienced leader knows how to raise the level of their team by bringing energy to inspire and motivate at just the right time.

The third and final expectation of leadership is that great leaders always produce results. The reason why I list this as the third expectation (and not the first) is because results are the natural byproduct of fulfilling the first two expectations. A leader who brings clarity and energy to their work will inevitably produce positive results. Or put another way, results are the outflow of a leader’s fearless commitment to creating a culture of accountability and enthusiasm. This concept should be intuitive for most athletes.

In the game of basketball, making jump shots during competition comes as a result of the work you do before game-day. The effort you put into honing your technique in practice will translate into results during the game. The more reps you put in and the more detailed you are in your approach, the more shots you will make in a game. The process drives the results—the results don’t dictate the process.


Do an honest self-assessment by writing down the following three questions:

What are the ways that I lead with clarity?

What are the ways that I lead with energy?

What are the actual results that I am producing?