4 virtues that define transformational leaders in every arena

We find ourselves in such a moment. As we consider the hurdles before us and what it will ask of our country, we must look for leaders with the vision to set the course, the courage to act decisively, the humility to improve continually, and the selflessness to serve their institutions and country. These four virtues define transformational leaders in every arena, whether they be an elected official, a corporate executive, the director of a local community group, or the head of state. As an observer and a practitioner, I have always found them to be essential and have continually, often unsuccessfully, tried to embody them. I hope our nation’s leaders— be they in business, government, or any other institution of American life— will too.

1. Leaders must be forward-thinking.

Leaders must be able to see through the fog and chaos of the moment and to envision the path forward. The dial on the compass sometimes seems to spin without stopping, but it’s the leader’s duty to rally the team, set the direction, bring others on board, and accomplish the mission.

2. Virtuous leadership takes courage.

Courage is not just found on the battlefield or in the face of physical harm. It takes courage to pursue a strong vision and, especially, to change course when needed. Hopefully, our leaders will have that same courage of their convictions to fight for what they see is right and to be willing to change and adapt to an ever-​changing world.

3. Leaders must be humble.

Humility of this kind is not the absence of kindness but a true sign of it. It can be superpower that lets you walk into any conversation open to hard questions and harder answers and which allows you to improve and learn constantly. And self-​improvement, as I’m continually reminded, is what keeps leaders strong.

4. Being a leader requires selflessness.

True leadership is not about you. It is about selfless service to others and to the mission. Everything else— all the accolades and power that come with leadership— are a distraction from that simple truth.

Great leaders always make sure the men and women in their command are taken care of first. Great leaders focus on the mission and those along with them in that mission, not themselves. Great leaders rally people through vision, courage, humility, and service. Our nation needs leaders like these to spearhead the great American renewal, and nothing trains leadership like the opportunity and honor of serving the country.

To discover a groundbreaking vision for how to unlock America’s full potential for greatness, read Superpower in Peril by David McCormick. Download chapter one for free.

Meet The Author: David McCormick

David H. McCormick is a prominent business executive, combat veteran, and public servant. David served as the Chief Executive Officer of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest investment management firms, before pursuing a U.S. Senate seat in his home state of Pennsylvania in 2022. Prior to Bridgewater, he was the U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs and held senior posts on the National Security Council and at the Department of Commerce. From 1999-2005, David was the CEO and then President of two publicly traded software companies. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, a former Army paratrooper, and a veteran of the First Gulf War. David holds a Ph.D. from Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs, and previously served on the Defense Policy Board. 

James M. Cunningham was an associate at Bridgewater Associates when he and David McCormick began writing this book, later joining David’s campaign for the U.S. Senate as a senior policy advisor. Previously, James worked as a policy analyst at the Hoover Institution, under former Secretary of State George Shultz, and at the American Enterprise Institute. He holds a Bachelor of Science and Engineering from Princeton University.

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