What would your followers say?

adapted from Phillip Van Hooser’s book, Leaders Ought to Know

Objective: Consider qualities of good and great leaders.

Prerequisites: None

Materials: Flip chart or white board

Time required: ~20 minutes


  1. Ask participants to think about the best leader they’ve ever known. Ask them to choose one word that best describes what made this leader so effective and to write it down. (Participants don't need to have worked for this leader.)

If using this activity with Everything DiSC Work of Leaders, you can ask specifically about leadership traits associated with vision, alignment, or execution, depending on which topic you're covering. For example, ask learners to describe a leader who effectively gained alignment around their vision (e.g., clear communicator, inspirational speaker, receptive to feedback).


  1. Ask them to share their words. Record these descriptions yourself on a flip chart or ask learners to post them on a virtual whiteboard.
  2. Ask participants to do the same for the worst leader the participants have ever known. Record the descriptions.
  3. Briefly discuss how these traits are made visable or practiced by great leaders. Ask for examples of these positive and negative traits.
  4. Now ask: “What words are your followers using to describe you when they talk with colleagues, family, or friends?” Ask participants to record these for themselves only.

  5. As time allows, discuss the challenges faced in achieving the positive traits the group listed. For example, if several people listed "charismatic" as a leadership quality, ask about how leaders can learn to be more charismatic and what might be the pitfalls of relying on one's charisma.

  6. As a journal assignment, ask participants to write about at least two positive traits they know they can exhibit better in the future. What skills do they need to practice? Also ask them to record any fears they have about showing traits on the negative list. These reflections might be shared with a mentor or leadership coach.