Good Qualities of a Leader

It’s almost like it’s a well hidden secret about what makes a good leader. It really shouldn’t be, but I do several workshops and seminars a month on leadership and business building and when I ask one simple questions,
“What are the good qualities of a leader?” Or when I rephrase it as “What are the qualities of a good leader?”  It’s extremely rare that anyone knows the answer that follows.

I’ll start listing all of the qualities that I get from the room on the board. What’s interesitng is that I’ll get a huge list with conflicting concepts. Someone will say something like, “A good leader is a strong leader that gives clear and well defined, step by step orders that can easily be followed.” Another will say “A good leader leads with a vision of what the end result will look like and encourage his followers to think for themselves.”

Aren’t those two concepts conflicting? One tells you HOW to do it, the other tells you what the end result looks like and then let’s you figure it how to do it.

We’ll end up with a huge list with frequently conflicting statements. So, when I ask them why they thought there were so many conflicting qualities up on the board, and  to PICK ONE, what one thing would you say is the real characteristic, or quality of a good leader? The room becomes strangely . . . quiet.

It should be a shock to you to understand that most of the top executives, and so-called leaders don’t really know what makes a good leader. But, it’s also an opportunity for you to become that leader, the greatest of leaders where ever you go . . . simply because you have the answer . . . and have become that great leader.

Let me restate those two important questions:

  • Why are there so many different answers, and frequently conflicting?
  • What is THE ONE most impartant quality of a good leader? The one that would make you, and everyone on your team the greatest leaders around?

I’m going to answer the alst one first then the first one will become obvious. The one characteristic, or quality of a good leader that creates a great leader is: a good leader “get’s results.”

Sounds almost too simple doesn’t it? But the definition of a leader is someone who isn’t at the mercy of anyone or anything, makes no excuses, and makes things happen. So, he isn’t saying, “The economy did this to me.” Instead he’ll deliver results despite barriers. He looks at obstacles not as an unsurmountable wall to progress, but something that can and will be worked around. Nothing stops him. And he always looks for the greatest vision of what the end result will look like, not just an easy vision. He challenges himself and his people to become the greatest of the great and then delivers.  

The answer to the first question, “Why are there so many different characteristics listed, and some conflicting?”

I frequently get an answer from the crowd that “It must mean that we [the roomful of people] don’t really know the answer.” Actually, that is true, and not quite true at the same time.

It’s true that the ONE best answer, “a leader always delivers results” might have slipped by everyone. But, in reality, all of the answers on the board are usually correct. Most of the tools that I had listed are correct but at different times. Leadership is situational. Meaning that the leader that gets results does so by knowing when to use which of those tools at what time and what situation.

Let’s go back to one of the conflicting statements. Most leaders that have been to leadership training have been told that you lead with a great vision and then pick the brains of your followers on the best way to get there. But there was another, somewhat conflicting statement, about giving clear step by step directions. So do we encourage them to think for themselves, or do we tell them step by step what to do? (The word micromanager comes to mind.)

Sometimes it seems that leaders get stuck because they’ve been told “THIS is the way” to lead. When in reality, whatever THIS was may actually work most of the time, or some of the time, but not all of the time.  Leadership is situational. A great leader is flexible and knows when to use what tool with what kind of individuals on his team.

When trying to lead a mule, pulling too hard on the reins can result in the mule pulling back and you go nowhere. But knowing how to get the mule actually pulling along side of you is the key to leading even a difficult follower.

A great leader makes sure to have ALL of the tools at his fingertips and uses the tools that get results. 

Knowing when and where, and with who, to use what tool to always get the results you want (your vision) is the key to becoming a GREAT Leader.

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