Three Overlooked Characteristics of an Exceptional Leader

Written by: Kevin Murray

Leadership embodies a multitude of ingredients, but not all are equal in the amounts and qualities. The following are three often overlooked characteristics that exceptional leaders embody:


Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.

In 2014 during a private seminar of 150 people in Fiji, the speaker pointed out that Martin Luther King Jr’s son was in attendance and sitting in the front row.

The entire room (including myself) erupted in thunderous applause for what felt like minutes.

Martin Luther King Jr. blvd street sign in Harlem NYC
The moment will resonate with me forever, as I’m sure many others in that room. And when Martin Luther King III took hold of the microphone, we could all feel the enormous sense of humility this man embodied.

His soft, yet resonating voice sent chills through the room, much like his father on August 28th, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. It was obvious that Martin Luther King III was not driven by ego. He wasn’t an angry or self-righteous man, but rather shy and incredibly humble, and thanked the audience for listening.

And like his son, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was often a beacon of humility. Just one example of his humble disposition can be observed from his speech on August 28th, 1963 where he used the words “we” or “we’ve” a combined 32 times!!

True leadership knows no ego… its bonds are bound through selfless service that’s congruent in both words and actions. Little by little humility casts a spell on those willing to serve the greater good, and the ripple effect is limitless.



I know nothing more valuable, when it comes to the all important virtue of authenticity, than simply being who you are.
Charles R. Swindoll

What is authenticity? How does one act authentic? According to Dr. Brené Brown –
Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice – a conscious choice of how we want to live.”

Have you ever worked really hard on something you took enormous pride in? Maybe it took weeks, months or even years to complete – and you couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

If so, then how would you respond if an individual came along and picked your entire project apart in one fell swoop? Would you respond with courage, compassion or humility? Or lash out in anger and rage?

If you value courage, compassion and/or humility and choose to act on those virtues, versus reacting in a way that felt good in the moment but was not your true nature – than you’ve just made a conscious choice of how you want to live, and embodied what it means to be authentic.

“Let them criticize, let us sleep.” – Dr. David Babbel

Here’s the reality… leaders know there will ALWAYS be those who criticize, and have little control over those who do. But all exceptional leaders establish a practice of authenticity allowing them to be exactly who they are, and who they aspire to be – especially in difficult circumstances.



Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.
Tony Robbins

Sometimes it’s helpful to establish what something isn’t to better clarify what it is.
Again using the insights of Dr. Brené Brown – “Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.”

She provides another way to look at vulnerability when defining as “emotional exposure”. Said differently, it’s embracing the emotions that make us who we are, rather than being who others think we should be.

It’s risky living up to the expectations of the dreams leaders strive to achieve. It’s far easier to play it safe and avoid criticism.

Being vulnerable leaves all leaders subject to criticism and cynicism. Often times the temptation to please others and avoid certain emotions can steer the course of direction away from the desired outcome. And the hard part about vulnerability is that standing for a specific purpose and believing in something larger than the moment can be scary.

There are enormous upsides to practicing vulnerability… Imagination and creativity flow freely when regularly visiting this state of emotion. And when coupled with the virtues of authenticity and humility; fear of failure, fear of rejection and countless other limiting emotional vices are no longer at the forefront, and lose their negative influence.

Whether riding the metaphorical mountains of success, or submerged by the waves of chaos, all exceptional leaders demonstrate these three powerful, yet overlooked characteristics of leadership

Question: What are some other overlooked characteristics that exceptional leaders regularly demonstrate? Which ones do you value most? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Written by:

Kevin Murray
Movement Masterminds – CEO

Function First – Director of Education

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “Three Overlooked Characteristics of an Exceptional Leader

  1. what I value is honesty, with your self and with others. I also value authenticity, allowing your self to be free. And gratefulness, leaders must grateful of every moment and every opportunity it allow us to unwrap the “present” while first receiving rather seeing (or opening that “present”) later on.

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