What Makes a Good Leader

Let us look briefly at what makes a good leader. One can see many lists of qualities and traits of leaders on sites such as LinkedIn. Go there and explore. These lists are all potentially useful, as long as we all remember that what may be good for one person may not be that useful for another. And that’s perfectly fine, as we are all different. Lists of leadership qualities are fine, but it’s the unity of qualities that is the big difference. One can’t simply cobble together useful traits and expect them to automatically transform one into an excellent leader. Be yourself. Bring to your leadership your unique expression of it.

What I wish to do here is to briefly dig down more fundamentally into some very basic and useful qualities of leadership, qualities I sometimes see missing from so-called lists of leadership qualities. The observations apply to any discipline, whether it’s law enforcement, healthcare security, nursing, EVS, retail, fast food, you name it. People are people, regardless of what specific thing they do to make a living.

Firstly, a good leader cares for those s/he leads. They’re thrilled that they get to serve them as a leader and don’t mind telling them every day, in small and large ways, that they care for them. This is so very fundamental and yet, for many so-called leaders, it seems to be conspicuously absent.

Secondly, a good leader is attuned to those s/he leads. They listen to what everyone says (not just what they say with their mouth but also with their tone of voice and body language). They are always on the lookout for what everyone is trying to say. This is so very important. This means calmly and mindfully paying attention to everything that comes from those s/he leads, including when it’s frustrating, odd, or in any other manner, less than normal. People are emotional beings (despite what you may think) and what comes out of them (us included) can often be complicated, hard to discern, annoying, difficult to hear, etc. A good leader allows a safe space for everything to be heard.

Thirdly, a good leader is not envious of the success of those s/he leads. They don’t try to be seen as outshining those s/he leads. They are comfortable in their own skin enough to not only be unbothered if anyone outperforms them in any particular area but actually thrilled that they are outperforming them. Indeed, let us inspire others to reach depths and heights of growing into greater versions of themselves! A good leader is emotionally strong enough that s/he wants people to go beyond anything they have ever done.

Fourthly, a good leader actively, quietly, and consistently works on her/himself, staying mindfully on top of their own issues, in such a manner that they don’t project onto those s/he leads. Just as good parents break and stop generational trauma and thus don’t pass it down to their children, so likewise do good leaders not replicate some past behavior of a bad leader and thus pass it on. Let us help those we lead be happy at work; if that’s not possible, then, at least, let us not pass on misery.

Fifthly, a good leader knows about, establishes, and guides others toward, boundaries. The good leader knows that s/he may be momentarily frowned upon (in a passing and impermanent fashion) when s/he must do something that may be felt as unpleasant to the Team Member but which is in the name of honoring reality, fairness, and good culture.

Sixthly, a good leader does not mind being perceived as sometimes a little boring or predictable. Why? Because “boring” connotes (in part) doing the same things repeatedly. And “predictable” connotes something similar as well. Doing good actions, over and over, every day, greatly contributes to a culture wherein people know what to expect, trust what to expect, and thus have a safe environment in which they can grow, makes mistakes, and otherwise explore evolving into deeper/higher versions of themselves (professionally and personally).

I’m sure there are other fundamental qualities of a good leader. The ones mentioned above are, however, what I’ve seen in life so far as consistently helpful. I’ve seen this across all industries, all age ranges, everywhere.

It should be no secret that the aforementioned leadership qualities are also helpful qualities for being a good parent and human being on planet earth. Goodness is goodness. It’s no surprise that in the business of caring for people, whether as a leader, a parent, or simply a decent human being, similar qualities manifest as good and useful.

Don’t just talk about being a good leader or human being. Be one. Today.


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