What Makes a Good Leader?
The idea that a leader is born has been debunked and the thinking now is that a leader can be formed or be educated into the role. Of course there are many personality traits that assist in being a leader and if you have the desire and the willpower to become an effective leader, then these traits help in a big way. Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of people by his or her attributes, trust, beliefs, values, ethics, character and being honourable in achieving the goals set.
Today more than ever, we need good leadership skills. When we allow people to take over the leadership of “whatever” organisation, do we examine the aspects of their lives that will ensure we are getting the best person to put our trust in? When we place our trust in the Principal of a school, the coach who train our children, our local statutory personnel, our priests and those who have authority that effect our lives, do we examine their performance, their character, and their insight into the needs required and the values they have to offer? If we do, then in our present circumstances we ourselves must be held responsible for placing people who are incapable of leading us and our country into a better place and be prepared to suffer the effects. We suffer the effects of poor and ill-informed leaders every day in this country, from the voluntary to the statutory organisations.
The ideal scenario for a leader is to have infinite flexibility, to be an executive leader when putting a team together , ie. making the decisions, but to be a participating leader, ie, putting your shoulder to the wheel, when the need arises. The need to change our leadership style according to the circumstance, is a fundamental principle of being a good leader. How you develop as a leader always depend on whether you are involved in an organisation or as an individual. The former is driven by need, the latter by talent. Some have a natural leadership and strength for different aspects of what type of organisation they are leading, for example if you are a sports leader, you need physical fitness, while for some other organisations you need knowledge, empathy, education, a knowledge of how a system works, and most of all common sense. Jago in 1982 said “good leaders must develop through a never ending process of self study, education, training and experience and be able to inspire a higher level of teamwork by what you know, and what you do”. Good leaders do not rest on their laurels and are humble in their contribution.
Certain characteristics make a leader unique, top of the list is knowing your strength and your weaknesses, your knowledge and skill for the job in hand, to be able to respond to human needs, know where to get help, provide direction, be efficient. To be able to communicate, co-ordinate, supervise and evaluate are all essential elements in good leadership. Successful leaders set high standards and goals, have strategies, plans, and value those who support them. The road to successful leadership according to Kouzies and Posner (1982) are common to all successful leaders, are as follows:
- Challenge the process. ie. What needs to be changed?.
- Inspire a shared vision. ie have the group understand in simple language.
- Enable others to act. ie Allow them to solve the problem.
- Model the way. A boss tells others what to do, a leader shows how its done.
- Encourage the heart. ie. Share the glory, keep the pain to yourself.
The fundamental starting point is a good understanding of human nature, such as needs, emotions, and motivational skills. Different people require different styles of leadership skills, like a new employee needs more supervision than an experienced one, and a person who lacks motivation requires a different approach to someone highly motivated. Leaders, lead by example, by communication and by diligence and never asking a person to do something they would not be prepared to do themselves. A leader must be able to judge if the confrontation is to be harsh or gentle to inspire a follower. If the followers do not trust or be inspired by their leader, and it is the followers who determine if a leader is successful or not, not the superiors, well then your worthiness is in question and your leadership flawed. Leadership is different from being the “boss” – good leadership makes people want to achieve high goals, not “ bossing” people around.
Good leadership influences people to do great things, and must be able to communicate in a manner that is easily understood. If the message do not take root then you have a less chance of it being implemented. Leaders must be able to be a keen listener, and astute in their observations. Trust is paramount and it must be earned. Some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles, or often a crisis brings out extraordinary strength in an ordinary person that belies an underlying leadership skill. People can learn leadership skills, look at the Army and see what extraordinary leadership skills are got by training and formation.
People want to be guided by those they respect and who have a clear sense of direction. We place people in positions to run our country, and we expect them to have an ethical and strong vision for all of our futures. But as time goes by, we wonder if they have any trusted and honourable commitments to the leadership roles they are being asked to shoulder. Self serving people misuses authority to look good and perhaps get promotions, presenting a good image at the expense of the citizens at large. We should all observe and decide if those in power are delivering on the promises made, and if not, why not. The very basis of a good leader is an honourable character who gives selfless service to those who are their followers. Trust and confidence in our top leaders is the most reliable predictor of satisfaction. Leaders in all types of organisations, be they church or local communities, politicians, or those in public office, must be an exemplary role model to achieve their full potential of keeping their followers happy and willing. Responsibility for your actions, and seeking to be responsible, taking the blame and taking corrective action are all actions expected of a good leader.
Leaders must always be aware of people’s wellbeing by showing care and concern. Being professional, honest, competent, open, committed, showing courage and integrity in the face of many demands, are some of the many facets of good and caring leadership.
Being a leader, commands a grave responsibility towards those who choose to follow your example, and the decisions that are made that impact on the lives of those who have trusted somebody else with their happiness and success, must always favour the follower. Trustworthiness and loyalty to take care of the human needs of the people who hold a leader in high regard and respect your judgement, should not be tampered with or carried out in a cavalier fashion. That is the grave responsibility a leader takes on when they make that judgement call. Without leaders that show the way, the followers, who are the general run of people, would become lost in the on-going decisions that are made in everyday life. Good leaders are gold, if they carry out their duties and produce the results that people hope for and leave an everlasting legacy in their wake. We remember Ghandi, Golda Meir, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parker and so many more who gave us example and a code to live life by. The greatest acknowledged leader ever in the world, was Jesus of Nazareth. We should all look to the values that He left and that still remain relevant every hour of every day for the betterment of all human lives.
The 6 most important sentences in a leader’s life:
I made a mistake. If you please
You did a good job. Thank you.
What is your opinion. We.
Least important word I.