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The Surprising Traits of Outstanding Leaders


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In last week's Motivational Mondays episode, we had a riveting discussion with Dr. Kozhi Makai, the founder of Kozhi Makai Worldwide. Using behavioral science, Dr. Kozhi helps organizations maximize their employees' potential.

In our previous conversation, Dr. Kozhi shared his 3-point process for identifying our strengths and learning how to leverage them to our advantage. This week, we dive into the surprising traits that make a great leader, and how to find your next mentor.


Dr. Kozhi identifies the key traits that make a great leader. To start, he notes integrity as a critical component of leadership because of the impact on how others view you. But, more importantly, it also dictates how you feel about yourself and how that relates to what you project to the world.

Leadership is about the influence we have on those who look to us for guidance and answers. Using himself as an example, Dr. Kozhi states, "It's very difficult to influence people if I'm not put together—now I didn't say put together perfectly, I just mean put together." In essence, if someone is disjointed, lacking discipline and control, they cannot lead with confidence.

As head of his organization, Dr. Kozhi knows firsthand that when it comes to leadership, people want those in charge to have integrity. Therefore integrity fosters loyalty. A great leader must understand that their success is defined by the success of their team or their clients.


After many years of helping organizations maximize their employees' potential, Dr. Kozhi says the areas for improvement he most commonly encounters is the over-reliance on the technical skills and tactical steps of completing a task while overlooking the importance of what he calls "Employability skills."

Dr. Kozhi defines employability skills (otherwise known as soft skills) as those more closely tied to interpersonal abilities, communication, and how we interact with others. 

Dr. Kozhi shares an example to drive the point home further, "If I were to pick two leaders, or even two potential employees, one was an A+ in technical skills but a D in employability skills. Another person was an A in employability skills, but maybe a C in technical skills… I'm taking the C in technical skills. Because technical skills can and will improve with time." Employability skills can make all the difference.


Mentorship is an immensely powerful tool that can transform employees and students into strong leaders. However, Dr. Kozhi has often seen many people too afraid of rejection even to ask someone they admire for mentorship. 

He offers a very direct bit of advice on how to deal with this fear, "Three letters: A-S-K. Ask. You just need to have no shame. Nobody likes the word "no," nobody wants to feel the embarrassment of being rejected."

Dr. Kozhi encourages people not to be crippled by the fear of being told "no" because the experience of rejection is typical, and most people will hear "no" in life far more times than they’ll hear "yes." First and foremost, we must reframe rejection, and accept it as an essential component of personal growth.

There are plenty of people in the world you may want as a mentor, and they might be happy to help guide you along the way in your journey, but if you never muster up the courage to ask, you will never know. 

NSLS members, listen to the bonus episode with Dr. Kozhi to hear about the one moment that changed the course of his career.



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