Are You an ACUTE Leader?

With over 27 years of experience in learning and development, I’ve observed leaders at various stages of their careers. Successful leadership, I’ve discerned, is predicated on five key elements, which I’ve encapsulated in the acronym ACUTE.

Acute is defined as possessing keen insight or shrewdness. But how does this translate into leadership?


“Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet—thinking, saying, feeling, and acting consistently. This engenders trust, and followers inherently gravitate towards trustworthy leaders.”

– Lance Secretan, British-Canadian author

Self-awareness is the foundation and culmination of leadership. Understanding oneself, including strengths, weaknesses and “blind spots,” is essential. Research results shared by Tasha Eurich, Ph.D. suggests a large discrepancy between perceived and actual self-awareness, highlighting its rarity. Enhance self-awareness by introspection and seeking feedback, thus paving the way to emotional intelligence—key in managing emotions to foster effective communication and resilience.

  • Action Steps: Complete personality inventories to enhance both your self-awareness and emotional intelligence. We offer BEST Assessment, MindVue and Birkman (self-awareness) and EQ-i (emotional intelligence). Journal, meditate and actively seek feedback from others.


“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious, and curiosity leads us down new paths.”

– Walt Disney, American animation and film producer; entrepreneur

Curiosity fuels continuous improvement and learning. It demands open-mindedness to criticism and alternative methodologies. As a dedicated lifelong learner, I engage with resources like LinkedIn Learning and Masterclass, and recently I acquired Birkman certification to enrich my leadership coaching capabilities and offerings. Curiosity also necessitates active listening, a catalyst for collaboration.

  • Action Steps: Embrace routines that perpetuate learning, like those recommended by James Clear in Atomic Habits. Always challenge peers and your team to raise the bar. Ask “why.”


“I have never made a secret of any of my thoughts or areas of interest. I’ve always been honest, open, and upfront.”

– Boyd Rice, American musician

Transparency is non-negotiable in modern workplaces. Leaders must be candid about the organization’s direction, thus empowering employees. We advocate the Three-Legged Stool approach—Coaching, Leading, Managing—in our training programs. In addition, what leaders do when their employees are not watching is what sets them up for success, such as removing barriers to success and being an advocate for them internally to set them up for new opportunities and roles within the organization (and possibly outside it as well).

  • Action Steps: Establish a culture where employees can voice their thoughts to enhance mutual trust. Block and tackle and have candid conversations to maximize performance and drive employee satisfaction.


“Transformation is a journey filled with peaks and valleys. It’s a process of discovery with high and low moments.”

– Rick Warren, American author

Visionary leaders are transformational, identifying a path to success and activating the inherent “superpowers” of their teams. They comprehend the cultural ecosystem required for growth. They can connect dots for their employees and make a difference in their lives, both personally and professionally. Storytelling, a skill imperative for connection and clarity, must be honed to be impactful. For storytelling improvement, consider insights from experts like Donald Miller, David Hutchens and Kindra Hall. We create learning experiences that take individuals outside their comfort zone. Doing so pushes learners to stretch themselves in a comfortable setting, which can lead to transformational results for them personally, as well as their team and organization.

  • Action Steps: Understand and communicate the direction of your team, department and organization. Articulate the big picture clearly, and how you will get there. Connect each member of your team to the outcome to show their value and importance.


“To hold empathy for everyone around you is an immensely powerful trait.”

– Misty Copeland, American ballet dancer

According to Regal Plastics CEO Chad Gono, “Work doesn’t have to suck.” I agree! Employees seek an environment where they can relate to their boss and believe in them. Empathetic leaders—who care genuinely for their team—have the following characteristics:

  • Regularly engages with each team member through various interactions.
  • Builds trust consistently.
  • Remains accessible and open to dialogue.
  • Is recognized as a relationship builder, valued for their genuine concern.
  • Demonstrates vulnerability, acknowledging mistakes for collective learning.
  • Prioritizes employees by being a servant leader.

For a framework on establishing trust, refer to the Trust Equation by Charles Green of Trusted Advisor Associates.

We collaborate with our clients to create solutions that create more aligned workplace cultures by communicating and reinforcing desired behaviors.

  • Action Steps: Choose people over process. Hire people who are passionate about your vision and embrace your values. Look for and embrace individuals who are hungry, humble and smart. Connect with your employees regularly and get to know them on a personal basis.

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