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The DNA of Extraordinary Leaders

Extraordinary leaders. You know them when you see them. They stand out. They get your attention. They not only own the room—they light it up. Industry, field, location, age, and gender is irrelevant. Whether high profile or out of the limelight, extraordinary leaders are lighting the way for brighter paths of success with such purpose that followers are tagging along. What does extraordinary leadership look like? How do we become extraordinary leaders?

These questions are difficult because extraordinary leadership requires work. And resolve. And disappointments. And failure.

As an executive coach, I’ve been privileged to work with many extraordinary leaders from all walks of life who are making a difference in their places of influence.

DNA is made up of four building blocks. Like DNA itself, I have come to identify that all extraordinary leaders have four main building blocks.


To me, one of the key elements in extraordinary leadership is giving your all and loving what you do. For years we have relied on intellect alone in making decisions and leading. Sometimes you can’t rely on your head. Sometimes you need to listen to the heart. Other times you need to talk with your team to learn how your decisions will impact them.

Leading from the heart is about earning influence through relationships rather than authority. It’s developing the art of emotional intelligence. Extraordinary leaders don’t coerce compliance, they create safe environments because they’re “one of” not “one above”. They admit their own mistakes. Ask forgiveness for offenses. Stand with people who screw up. Express gratitude. Support the development of teammates and teams.

Success is ordinary. Success with heart is extraordinary.


As someone who has been helping develop leaders around the world for years, I know that without the soul, leadership will continue to suffer. We have many smart leaders, but the soul is missing. No one looks to a cold, callous, and competitive leader with no care for the welfare of the people. When you infuse the soul, you bring the heart back into leadership.


The truth is that you can’t get anywhere without vision. Vision is the defining characteristic of extraordinary leaders. When leaders share a powerful vision and organize and staff the workplace to accomplish it, a powerful dynamic drives employee performance. People are motivated when leaders are seen as credible, trustworthy, and authentic. When leaders walk their talk and have vision, employees will choose the job over other options.


The road to great things is paved with roadblocks, let-downs, and failed attempts, but extraordinary leaders understand when to abandon the cause and when to stay the course. If your vision is bold enough, there will be hundreds of reasons why it ‘can’t be done’ and plenty of doubters. The true grit of a leader is not how they perform during the good times but rather how they display emotional strength, courage, and professionalism during the most trying times.

What would it look like if your team imitated you? Would you be happy with their performance? As a leader, you are the prototype. People are watching you all the time, looking to you for help, answers, and will unconsciously mimic your behavior—down to the cadence of your speech and the inflection of your voice. If you are late to meetings, the people around you will learn this style of leadership and be late to meetings. Conversely, if you are warm, engaging, and lead with a bold heart, they will take that lesson forward with them. After all, what’s an extraordinary leader if not someone who can inspire others to greatness?

“Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determinations.” ~


By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano

President and CEO of Barbachano International (BIP),

The Human Capital Solutions leader in Mexico, Latin America, and the USA, offering high-impact executive search, executive coaching, and outplacement.

About Barbachano International

Barbachano International (BIP) is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Latin America, & Canada) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets.  Outplacement and Executive Coaching services are provided by our sister allied company Challenger Gray & Christmas. Since 1992, BIP and its affiliates have impacted the profitability of over 50% of Fortune 500 Companies.  BIP has been recognized by Forbes as Americas’ Best Executive Search Firms and currently ranks #27 and #3 on the West Coast.  Headquartered in San Diego, California with satellite offices in Florida and Mexico.  As member-owners of NPAworldwide Recruitment Network, we are supported by partner offices in over 50 countries.


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