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Determination is an important leadership trait. Determination is the desire to get the job done and includes characteristics such as initiative, persistence, dominance, and drive. People with determination are willing to assert themselves, they are proactive, and they have the capacity to persevere in the face of obstacles (Northouse, 2007, p.20). Several well-known leaders have highlighted the importance of determination.[1]

Without determination, nothing will come to fruition. The plans, ideas and goals will be stagnant without the perseverance to make them come to life. Often times, traits such as determination is what separates effective leaders from those that are ineffective (Northoue, 2016, p.21). To be an effective leader with unbounded determination, characteristics of determination such as drive, persistence, initiative, and dominance must evidently be seen and applied (Northouse, 2016, p.24). People with determination show initiative by being proactive (Northouse, 2016, p. 24). They are willing to do what is necessary and beyond even without being told to do so. Determination includes displaying dominance especially when followers need to be directed (Northouse, 2016, p. 21). As a leader, it is important to mobilize the people you lead to achieve your shared goals. There may be instances where followers may not completely agree with the decision or direction that you are taking them towards. In this case, it is important that a leader asserts himself and demonstrates the determination to maintain the momentum towards the goal. Many times followers only know a piece of the puzzle, whereas leaders envision how the picture in the entire puzzle will look like and therefore must be determined to create that picture even when the people around them don’t necessarily agree. It is the leaders who are determined that will be effective. Becoming a successful leader is like running a race. A lot of people can start the race, but not all will last. When it comes to determination, it is not a matter of who is running next to you, rather, it is based upon whether you are able to keep running despite the obstacles that come your way.[2]

Strategies to Help Build Determination[3]

  • Set priorities - What’s really important to you? Leaders who treat everything as equally important are ineffective, whether it’s staff or projects. Knowing that A is more important than B, which is more important than C is the first step toward success.
  • Stop wanting to control other’s opinions or beliefs - You have a finite amount of energy and time. Stop wasting it being upset because you have no say or trying to change someone’s opinion when it won’t affect your success. If your lack of input could hinder your work, use your energy to find a way to influence those who do have input. If a contrary opinion doesn’t negatively impact your chance of success, walk away. Trying to force others to conform to your beliefs is a sign of insecurity.
  • Dispatch resentment - I have never met a truly successful, emotionally strong leader who feels envy or resentment. When you see somebody reach a goal, is your naturally tendency to feel happy for that person or to feel jealous? If it’s the latter, no worries, it’s not uncommon. The first step towards eliminating these negative behaviors is to stop holding pity parties for yourself. Resentment does nothing but deplete the mental energy you need to become a successful leader.
  • Like’s attract - Success brings energy and successful people tend to congregate around similar types. Who are you spending your time around? Do they bring you up or hold you down? The fire of determination in your belly can be stoked or extinguished by the company you keep.
  • Follow your gut - I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming blog, but for now I’ll leave you with this parting note. There are actually scientific studies supporting trust of your initial reaction - your gut instinct – which leads to more success than failure. Don’t ignore due diligence, but also listen to that little voice inside that gave you the first answer. It’s the same voice that controls determination.

What Makes a Determined Leader[4]
Determined leaders do not hesitate to do the hard, but right, things consistently. Peter Bregman, in his Harvard Business Review blog post, 'Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail', articulates this point vividly, “[Resolve] means speaking up when others are silent. And remaining steadfast, grounded, and measured in the face of uncertainty. It means responding productively to political opposition — maybe even bad-faith backstabbing — without getting sidetracked, distracted, or losing your focus. And staying in the discomfort of a colleague’s anger without shutting off or becoming defensive.” The four important qualities that create sustainable, high impact leadership are:

  • Passion: Leaders with great passion are quiet, humble, deep thinkers who have an inner driving force that is contagious to anyone who comes into contact with them.
  • Intentionality: Much of leadership has to do with intention, choosing or determining to act in a certain way to reach a dream or goal. Leaders with intentionality have the power to keep their minds directed towards the end result using mental pictures of what the end state will be. This vision illuminates their route. Intentionality is also a way that leaders tend to their organizations by carefully cultivating talent. They provide the right amount of critical feedback and positive encouragement to keep people on the path to achieve results.
  • Emotional Courage: Aristotle called courage the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues possible. As leadership attributes go, emotional courage is a big one. Leaders must be bold and prepared to make unpopular decisions when necessary. Courage is acting on what is right, despite being afraid or uncomfortable, when facing situations involving pain, risk, uncertainty, opportunity, or intimidation. It is a state of mind that grows out of clarity of purpose. Without courage, our resolve will erode in the face of the fierce forces that often surround leaders. Courage involves the head and the heart, but it also provides the firm backbone of resolve.
  • Steadfastness: Steadfast leaders are committed. Dedication to their mission or vision runs deeply in them. They are grounded in purpose and values. Leaders can have abundant passion, high intentionality, and the courage of a lion. But when adversity or hard times swirl around, leaders must show patience, tenacity, and unshakeable faith. They understand the importance of setting their own pace to survive both sprints and marathons to maintain lasting results. It takes steadfastness to stay determined in the face of challenges and successes.

See Also

Leadership Continuum
Leadership Development
Leadership Development Framework
Leadership Pipeline
Leadership Styles
Transactional Leadership
Autocratic Leadership
Action-Centered Leadership
Democratic Leadership
Strategic Leadership
Team Leadership
Cross-Cultural Leadership
Facilitative Leadership
Laissez-faire Leadership
Transformational Leadership
Coaching Leadership
Charismatic Leadership
Visionary Leadership


  1. Definition - What Does Determination Mean?Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University
  2. What is Determination in Leadership? Penn State
  3. 5 strategies for emerging leaders help build determination Mari Carmen Pizarro
  4. What it Takes to Be a Determined Leader University of FLorida