First off I think he believes in leadership by example. He is motivated to be the hardest worker on the team, and goes about his training in a logical and forthright manner.
He is skinny, and as a former "skinny kid" myself, I know that it only makes his mental toughness go up to make up for his perceived lack of physical toughness. Contrast with Shaq, who is physically very tough but has been very sensitive to criticism his entire career. So KD followers won't have to worry about his ego getting in the way.
Leadership by example is similar to that of Kevin Garnett, who frequently spoke of his desire to be the first one in the gym and the last to leave.
Contrast with the leadership style of Allen Iverson, which is about on-court performance and nothing else. This is less effective because although it worked for A.I. personally, it never pulls teammates up and indeed, allows him to measure his performance separately from that of others.
KD and Kevin Garnett were more about team results and feel that they can singlehandedly win games by outpracticing and outworking everyone before the game even starts. This is the most effective team-leadership style for the NBA.
While personal performance merits all-star appearances, the last shot as the game expires, and many other accolades, many people are interested in team performance (i.e. making the playoffs, securing home court advantage,
Back to KD. KD has taken some criticism personally, such as when he was attacked on Truehoop and by several statisticians about his poor pick and roll defense. He responded by focusing on that area and showing much improvement this year.
The important thing to note is that by focusing on a weakness, he improved it. That search-and-destroy mentality to weaknesses is reminiscent of an MJ saying "I will take a weakness and make it a strength".
Contrast this with LeBron James, who's back to the basket and post-up game are way below where they should be for someone of his amazing ability and potential. Two straight post-season flame-outs have not convinced him to work on his shortcomings but have instead made him sign with Miami, hoping that better teammates will bring him the championships he desires.
It seems likely that KD will methodically work to improve all areas of his game until injury and age make it more important to maintain his current levels rather than aspire for higher ones.
He is currently twenty one and NBA players max out physically around 26. While the mental game and experience continue to grow day to day, Kevin has about five seasons of the methodical improvement which is so fun to watch as a fan of Oklahoma.
**mention contract length here**