Any leader, once they have passed the essential skills / capability test for doing the job, needs to reflect on three key core characteristics of leadership.

As executive developers at PPI we are often engaged in discussions around the characteristics of good leadership. Most of us will know that in recent years there has been a huge debate around how leadership is supposedly changing. We have all been urged by many gurus, writers and commentators to consider that leadership is becoming much more “collaborative and distributed.” Technology and social networking have been key to driving this notion. We have been constantly advised that old style “command and control” is being assigned to the trash can.

Yet suddenly, when we look at the world’s fast changing political landscape it seems as if many people are starting to value traditional, old style, alpha leaders who take strong control and centralise power. As ever with leadership the issues are complex and not easily determined. We all know that one person’s strong leader is another’s authoritarian, dictator. Leadership is invariably determined by the follower’s perspective and a leader’s success is ultimately determined by their ability to generate followers in the first place.

At PPI, we have developed a simple but powerful way to help individuals calibrate and develop their own leadership style. We present it as the LRT question?

The "LRT" Question

Any leader, once they have passed the essential skills / capability test for doing the job, needs to reflect on three key core characteristics of leadership:

  1. Liked – Do people like me as a leader?
  2. Respected – Do people respect me as a leader?
  3. Trusted – Do people trust me as a leader?

Of course, most potential leaders will say they want to have all three characteristics and no doubt that is the ideal. However real insights on leadership come when you look between the three characteristics and ask people to choose. Given the choice between “liked and respected” most people will opt for respect. “Liked” is a strong attribute but it is not seen as so positive in difficult situations where tough decisions need to be made. In contrast “respect” is often viewed as being “tough but fair” and closely associated with “consistency:” a much-valued trait in leadership.

But it is when you start to question people around “Respect” and “Trust” that a deeper understanding of leadership emerges. Respect is a feeling of strong admiration for someone often brought about their abilities, qualities or achievements. You can fully respect a leader but not like them; as many people in corporate and political life do. “I fully respect my boss for their technical or business knowledge but I’d never say I like them as a person.” Margaret Thatcher was a great example of such a leader; even her most fervent political opponents respected her for her sense of conviction and belief but few would profess to liking her.

In contrast ‘trust” is often defined as a “firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone.” Trust takes leadership to another level. With “trust” you fully believe in someone and their motives, intent and actions. You don’t try to second guess or interpret the motives and actions of someone you trust because you believe in them. For a leader, there is no more powerful way to build followers.

In looking around at the political and business world today it is frequently the case that when a leader loses trust they lose everything. Perhaps because trust is such a demanding test of leadership it suggests why so many leaders don’t seek to pursue it. Instead preferring to follow the liked or respected route.

So, look around and ask yourself where do your leaders stand on the LRT question?

To find out more about how PPI Executive Development helps leaders think about and build their leadership brands contact Gerry Buckley at


About the Author

Mark Thomas: Leading International Expert on Business Partnering

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas is an international business consultant, author and speaker specialising in business planning, managing change, human resource management and executive development. Prior to working with PPI he worked for several years with Price Waterhouse in London where he advised on the business and organisational change issues arising out of strategic reviews in both private and public sector organisations.