THE ESSENTIALS OF REAL LEADERS: what does it take to be a real leader?

Reflections and Thoughts by Dr. Peter Cheng

Executive Director & Chief of Dialogue


This article is the first in a 9-part series that deliberates on the Who-ness and What-ness of a Real Leader who Shapes Culture and Drives Performance.


Tracing the history of leadership research and revolution, we see the rising need and expectation from the stakeholders of the business world, to want to have authentic and Real Leaders amidst the series of global corporate frauds and scandals. 

Real Leaders are authentic. They make a positive impact on individuals and the community they live in. Real Leadership is more than just a position.

It can be practised by anyone who has a desire to make an ennobling difference to others and themselves, guided by set of values, morals and ethical conduct. Real Leaders lead from their inner being, the essence of WHO they are. They have an admirable Character, Conviction With Courage and Credibility, forming the Who-ness of Real Leaders.

They also demonstrate learning agility (Competence), Create An Inclusive Environment and demonstrate Compassion for people. These form the What-ness of Real Leaders.  

Complementing the Who-ness and What-ness, Real Leaders shape the culture their organisations ensuring their people’s daily behaviours are guided by their shared corporate values as they strive toward sustaining performance excellence for their organisations.

Real Leaders exercise great responsibilities and utilise their personal influence for the benefit of the good of others and the community. Real Leadership is not about a position in the corporate setting. It’s about people who aspire to lead and are resolved to engage in self development by being more self aware through the garnering of feedback from the people they work and associate with.

These people engage in deliberate practices to improve themselves and appreciate that Real leadership is an on-going process and a journey they continually engage in to be the Real leaders others want to follow and be influenced by.  Research indicates that the best leaders are the best learners and leadership is not a one-off achievement, it takes time to be developed and certainly can be learned.

In my next articles, I will delve into the 8 essentials of real leadership and discuss how the 6Cs making up the What-ness and Who-ness of Real Leaders. I will also share how real leaders shape culture and drive performance through people to attain organisational excellence.

Do you know of any Real Leaders in your organisation? Curious to find out more about authentic leadership? Connect with us at and ask us about Real Leadership.