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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What makes a good leader?

I have observed that discussions about what makes a good leader focus on personal traits, achievements and personal experience. It is always about the individual. We have the notion of leadership and heroism, which in fact have nothing to do with each other. Actually heroes are not necessarily good leaders because they tend to do things by themselves - alone.

I find it interesting that most of what has been written about the making of a good leader or leadership development is by persons who have achieved a position of power and influence and use retrospect. My view is from a position in “the weeds”. Although it is very important learn from history and experience, we also have to understand the “Now” and that “Now” is already history. We live in a dynamic environment that is every changing. What makes a good leader is specifically the ability to deal with this dynamic environment from all the different aspects, most importantly social, organizational, and business. It is as if we always hear about the successes and not the failures. E.g. you always hear about seamless child births that take an hour or two in labor, not the ones that take 22 hours in labor and end with an emergency C-section.

I believe that just as important to leadership development is environmental influence. The environments in which we are able to operate, interact and transform also say a lot about leadership capability. We are all products of our environments and I would venture to say that being in the right environment has a lot to do with leadership development. Someone may have all the right things to be a good leader but if he is in an environment that never lets him emerge as the leader he is, it is not going to happen. Some of the things that foster these are social interaction, experiences (both success and also importantly failure) in the context of a group, not personal failure. Great leaders emerge when they rise to the occasion typically by mobilizing a group of people to perform and achieve success by empowerment, motivation, and inspiration. If the environment is inhibitive, such as micro management, short term performance goals, positions that are not a good fit it may never happen – they will never realize their true potential. The people that I look up to as great leaders do not necessarily have prominent personality, but rather the ones that are highly regarded by their peers for guiding shared successes and achievements.


Unknown said...


Your post is wonderful! I feel leaders need to be prepared to demonstrate discipline and work harder than the people they are leading.

Personal Development

Gilad Langer said...

Thanks for you comments, great blog BTW.