What makes a great leader?

Its hard to break down a "great leader" into one single definition. We all have our own ideas about what it means to be one, but how do leaders who have gone the distance define it, and define themselves?

We sat down with three of Australia's most successful women to find out.


Christine Khor

CEO and Cofounder, Chorus Executive

“A great leader knows that they don’t have all the expertise all the time, that they do not have all the answers. And heaven forbid, they can be wrong. The best leaders will acknowledge where their strengths and weakness are. In fact, the best leaders are clever enough, brave enough and ego-less enough to have amazing people standing next to them that have the skills, the experience, the lens and the foresight that they do not have.”

“People want to know that you’re consistent, trustworthy, and that you’ve got their back.”



Melanie Triffitt

CFO, Médecins Sans Frontières Australia

“I think there a few key elements that a leader needs. One is vision, and being able to translate
that vision to the team. Another is compassion, the ability to deal with a group of people in a compassionate way and really understand where they are coming from. I also think it’s really important to be honest, to celebrate achievements when they happen, but also to admit failure when failure happens.”

“You can show up and be a leader one day, and you’re not a leader another day. It’s up to you to make that decision every single day.”



Kate Thiele

CEO - Guide Dogs SA/NT

“A leader must be real. If you are not real, you can manage but you can’t motivate or indeed lead
because you are too remote. Value authenticity. Deliver what you say you will deliver and build trust. Trustworthiness is something you earn, along with respect – it is not related to role, gender or circumstance.”

“Leadership is about connecting with people, perhaps en masse but at its finest, it’s actually about a one-to-one connection.”

Love all these points. My personal belief is that ego is the enemy of truly great leadership.

Such a fantastic article, and great insight from 3 amazing women.

When I travelled to Uganda on the Business Chicks and The Hunger Project Leadership and Immersion Program, I had my definition of leadership turned upside down. I realised whilst there (and it was quite confronting at the time), that, at the time, leadership to me, was about "perfection". I had expected to be perfect as a leader, and I expected perfection from my leaders. 

Instead, what I saw there was a leadership style that was feminine and fierce, maternal and collaborative. It was one I'd often been criticised for using myself, but I saw how powerfully it was working in the communities there, and in the leadership of those on my trip.

I also realised that leadership was actually about accountability. About being accoutable to those you lead, and calling them to account as well. It totally reframed what leadership meant, and how to strive to be a great leader.

Thanks for a great article, Women in Focus!

- Amelia, UA x

I absolutely agree with EVERY WORD. You know what to do to be a great leader and I share your point of view.