What Makes a High Definition Leader?

Today’s headlines are replete with words like “disruptor” and “reformer” in describing the behavior of high profile leaders.

But how does a leader prevent change from becoming chaos? Or reform from prompting revolt?

She needs to be a High Definition Leader (HD Leader) and surround herself with a top-flight team that also possesses HD Leader qualities and capabilities.


I first discussed High Definition Leadership almost a decade ago when we were in the depths of the Great Recession. Back then most of my CEO and director clients faced unprecedented business and personnel challenges.  Uncertainty and fear reigned amidst economic contraction and red ink.

I urged them to lead in “high definition” as a way of keeping their stakeholders engaged and focused during turbulent times.


What distinguishes a High Definition Leader?  Here are what I believe to be essential attributes.

1.   Focused: HD Leaders possess sharply defined goals, plans and priorities.  They stay the course despite obstacles and setbacks.

2.   Committed: HD Leaders believe passionately in their purpose.  They are confident and know what they stand for.

3.  Clear: HD Leaders are crystal-clear in their communications.  They avoid ambiguous and gratuitous statements that “blur the picture” instead of clarifying it.

4.  Compelling: HD Leaders are vivid, three-dimensional individuals who engage people at both the “head and heart” levels.

5. Trustworthy:  HD Leaders build and promote positive, enduring  relationships in their professional and personal lives.  They are honest and insist on ethical conduct from themselves and others.

6.  Authentic: HD Leaders are sincere, trustworthy and likable.

7.  Consistent: HD Leaders behave in steady, predictable ways that build trust among key constituencies.

8.  Agile: HD Leaders are nimble learners, innovators and adapters to change.

9.  Self-Aware: HD Leaders have a realistic sense of their strengths, shortcomings and blind spots.

10.  Accountable: HD Leaders take the heat, not just the credit.  They hold themselves and others accountable.


Leading change today requires strong partnership and followership at a time when trust in leaders and institutions is badly eroded.  Trust in U.S. business continues to decrease, according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Activity ranging from geopolitical events to global mergers and acquisitions volume are sources of potential dislocation and stress.

High Definition Leadership generates stakeholder confidence and buy-in – not disengagement or resistance – so that management’s change objectives can be implemented with maximum success.

Clarity, commitment and consistency  are essential attributes in the executive suite and the boardroom to transform a change strategy into actual results.  Without these HD Leadership capabilities, confusion, mistrust and subpar execution are likely to occur.

Are you operating in High Definition mode? Take our quick HD Leader Quiz to find out.

Copyright ©Susan Battley.  All rights reserved.



About the Author

Susan Battley

An advisor to Fortune 100 executives and world-class institutions for more than twenty years, Dr. Susan Battley is an internationally recognized expert on CEO and leadership effectiveness. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms, and elite research institutions. She has worked with chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates, and prominent scientists, diplomats, and educators. A respected media source for analyzing leadership in the context of news-breaking events and key trends, Battley has been featured in outlets worldwide including CNN, CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg, and National Public Radio, and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chief Executive, Business Week, United Press International, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Science, Leader to Leader, Investments, and Worth. She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, a leadership strategy and organization effectiveness consultancy.