What Makes a Good Leader?

Whats the difference between a strong leader and a weak one?
Image labeled for reuse by Wikipedia

What’s the difference between a strong leader and a weak one? Image labeled for reuse by Wikipedia

Everyone has been in a situation where they’ve had to listen someone they didn’t want to listen to, not in a sense of a kindergartner not wanting to do the homework their teacher assigned, but where they did not trust and respect the person in charge.

Such as the terrible boss that everyone listens to because they’re afraid of getting fired.

These are situations where people do not lead, but control. Where people only follow their “leader” because they have authority over them. However, there are bountiful amounts of leaders who are followed willingly, where they have truly earned the trust and respect of their followers.

So how can we weave out the strong leaders from the weak ones?

Who would the average person be more likely to follow, the one who has their own interests as their top priority, or the one who has the interest of the entire group?

Trick question, it’s actually both.

The goals of the leader should be aligned with those of the group. The leader is the person within the group who the people choose to listen to because they believe that they will know how to handle the situation most effectively. The leader, of course, is chosen due to a demonstration of skills that are admired by their peers, such as strength, intelligence, and work ethic.

However, individual skills aren’t enough. The skill that truly matters is how well they can direct the group, which means utilizing the skills of all their individual followers.

“The most important quality (in my opinion) of great leader is that they listen to their team. Not just any kind of listening—they are active listeners,” said business teacher Aly Johnson. “They listen to their peers, their subordinates, and their bosses. They don’t need to agree with everything they hear, but great leaders engage with their team in this way.”

Engage their team, as in, their entire team. Sometimes a group may run into the issue of having a liability in the group, such as a slacker in a group project, or a slow runner on a track team. A good leader knows how to deal with the person in a way that will boost them to be better.

A company founded by Charlie Kim known as Next Jump uses a policy which states that employees cannot be fired because they do a bad job. Instead, they will be coached to do a better job, and guided to help them achieve a better work ethic and more effective work.

Now, this doesn’t mean to baby the group. A leader who tries to act like everyone’s friend rather than their leader gains no respect. It’s like when riding a horse. It’s important to care for the horse, but it’s essential to let it know that the rider is in charge, otherwise the horse will walk over him them.

On the flip side, the worst type of leader is one who controls rather than leads, as stated earlier. A person who rules with threats and punishment also gains no respect, and will always end up getting turned on by the group.

The best type of leader is, again, the person who guides the group. The person who best knows how to utilize everyone’s skills to operate at maximum efficiency.

If you’re wondering how to improve those skills, Johnson might have some advice.

“If you want to become a better leader, find a mentor. Study them, watch them in action,” said Johnson. “Then, when you are in a leadership position, ask for feedback! Not just from your boss, but also your peers, your team, your clients, etc.”

Becoming someone who inspires others to follow them takes time, but with practice, anyone can lead a group to greatness.