Updated April 24, 2023
Introduction to A Good Leader
Let me tell you about an incident that I happened to see:
Some children were playing in the park when their ball hit the window pane of a neighboring house. The glass shattered with the impact, and the noise was deafening. A grumpy old man immediately came out shouting abuses at the children. He demanded to know who had hit the ball. The children were silent with fear. The old man threatened to report the action of the children to their parents and arrange to have the play area sealed off. Then one girl came forward and owned up for the action. She said she was sorry to all her friends and promised not to repeat the action in the future. She also promised the man that she and her friends would play in another corner of the park from then on. The old man cooled down on receiving the apology and let the children off with a strict warning. He also threw their ball back.
Now, this may be a familiar story from everybody’s childhood. Many of us have gone through similar situations at a young age, but how many have behaved like girls? That, precisely, is the behavior that distinguishes a leader from the rest.
Leadership behavior and qualities are not limited to any particular stratum, level, or profession. These can be evidenced in any role, in any category of people, and in any situation. So a sales girl may exhibit leadership qualities as a newspaper vendor, a housewife as a college student, a bus conductor, and a company executive.
So, when you think of your favorite good leader, whose name crops in mind?
Let me guess. Some answers may be:
- Nelson Mandela
- Barrack Obama
- The Dalai Lama
- Bill Gates
- Mother Teresa
- Ratan Tata
- Aung San Suu Kyi
- Steve Jobs
Your Neighborhood Activist is a Good Leader
As you can see, the above list is as varied and eclectic as the qualities that define a good leader. Why do we admire someone as a good leader? Why do we want to follow someone? What is it about someone that inspires us?
It isn’t easy to pinpoint what exactly makes a good leader, as many leaders are very different in personality and traits.
For example, if we consider a powerful personality as an essential characteristic of a good leader, then why did millions of Indians follow Mahatma Gandhi willingly when he urged them to adopt non-violence means of protest and give up using imported goods? He had a mild personality and was extremely soft-spoken. Hardly the charismatic leader one imagines a path-breaker to be. On the other hand, you have another Indian freedom fighter, Subhash Chandra Bose, a dynamic and powerful speaker, a quintessential man of action, so to say, who equally successfully inspired millions to take up the freedom struggle in India and got world good leaders to support his efforts.
The earliest theory of Leadership stated that Leadership is an inborn quality you either have or don’t have. But later, management gurus have taught us that leadership qualities can be learned and imbibed through proper training and behavior modeling.
Let us first touch upon some popular theories of Leadership:
- Trait theory specifies the traits or qualities of a successful and good leader. Some traits would be:
- Desire to lead
- Good personality
- The behavioral theory stresses that effective Leadership is a result of role behavior. It moves away from traits to emphasize the behavioral patterns that define a good leader and their effects on followers.
- Management or Leadership Grid theory, founded by Blake and Moulton, specifies five distinct styles of management ranging from Impoverished (poor) to Team (Desirable) Management.
- The situational theory stresses the importance of situational factors like subordinates, supervisors, and task considerations in determining a good leadership style.
- The path-goal theory focuses on achieving goals as the ultimate aim of Leadership. It identifies four leadership styles for influencing subordinates to achieve organizational and individual goals.
The above are some of the earliest theories of Leadership propounded by management experts. Organization HR Departments still use some of these methods to conduct executive leadership development programs. However, the inherent limitation of these theories is that they focus exclusively on the lead their style.
Changing Corporate Scenario
In the current age of global turbulence, an uncertain economy, and constant corporate change, the focus has shifted from the leader to the other variables of the leadership matrix. The focus is now on the changing needs and profile of the follower, the increasing complexity of work tasks, altering organizational realities, and the cross-cultural, ethnically diverse workforce.
The Transformational Leadership theory has been becoming increasingly popular over the past decades. As evident from the terminology, transformational Leadership relies heavily on the leader’s impact on subordinates, how they imbibe and sell an idea or vision, and how they constantly inspire and lead by example.
A transformational leader motivates and rally around their people and is always visible. Such leaders live their vision and mission and guide others by infusing tasks with meaning and challenge. Creativity and innovation score high with such leaders. Leaders such as these are great change agents and lead the organizational transformation from the front.
Shifting away from the Individual to Group Leadership
Later theories have also focused on group leadership as an alternative to personal Leadership. Each Indian city needs to become a good leader, so why concentrate on one individual? Favorable conditions for exhibiting good leadership qualities must be made available to everyone in the organization, believe modern management experts. Everyone must be given opportunities to assume leadership roles in teams and groups.
Imbibing Leadership Qualities
“Leadership be taught. It can only be learned.” – Harold S GAssumingssuming that each one has it in us to become a good leader, the next question would be, how do I learn Leadership? The answer would be by observing the behavior and actions of inspiring leaders. But one may argue that their circumstances are different; they had the necessary conditions for having “leadership thrust on them.”
But Leadership is not necessarily the product of being born out of particularly conducive circumstances. We can emerge as good leaders through personal transformation and change.
For this, the keyword is a personal change or modification of our thoughts and beliefs. Identify your role model, and learn from their journey toward greatness. Having an inspiring role model urges us to adopt similar behavior and r lives.
You also need to let go of your fears, the
Let me discuss the common fears we have about ourselves:
- I am not smart/ intelligent enough to become a good leader. The pet peeve of almost all of us who believe we are not good enough to lead others. Most of us have a negative self-image that pushes us to undermine our strengths and play up our shortcomings. So we have this script playing out in our minds constantly:
- I am dumb
- I can’t do this
- My communication sucks
- I wish I were someone else
Shake it off, pal, if you want to rise above the rest. A Good Leader is far from perfect. The increased risen from ordinary backgrounds have struggled like you and me to prove their worth and have conquered personal demons.
- I have failed so many times. So have all of us! Failures are the pillars of success, goes an old saying. Failure is not demeaning as long as it teaches valuable lessons about ourselves in life. Leaders, all through time, have been open about failing and picking up from where they have left off. Leadership involves rising like a phoenix from the ashes of failure.
- What will people say/ what if people laugh at me? If you spend all your life thinking about this, then, unfortunately, life will pass you by. People are busy leading their lives; they will most likely comment on what you are doing, then continue with what they were doing. Our insecurities pull us back, always citing the stray incident when someone laughed at us or mocked our actions. But think of the times when you went ahead and achieved results and gained personal happiness or contentment. Is it not worth risking one or two comments or laughs for the joy of doing what your heart desires?
- I will lose my job/ financial stability. Risk-taking is not everyone’s cup of tea, admitted. CEOs and company honchos are comfortable taking risks. But think about it. They have far more to lose than you. Still, they do take calculated risks. No pain, no gain, as they say. Leadership involves making tough decisions, often unpleasant or risky. But the expected trade-off makes it worth it.
You will find a lot of thoughts preventing you from displaying leadership behavior in the workplace:
- My boss will scream
- He/she will feel insulted by my actions
- Co-workers will become hostile
- I will be overstepping my area of authority
- I will be upsetting the state and so on and forth. Often unpleasant precedents haunt us and hold us back. But a leader has to break free from such inhibitions and do what is required. Today, Leadership is about initiating change, which involves upsetting the balance to create something more worthwhile.
Organizational Impetus to Leadership
Rigid hierarchies, domineering management styles, and excessive adherence to the rule book stifle initiative and don’t allow employees to emerge as good leaders. Risk-taking and out-of-the-box thinking are essential components of Leadership; if these are suffocated by bureaucracy and autocracy, the organization loses out on potential leaders.
HR can take some steps in organizations to encourage Leadership in employees:
- Build an open culture where ideas can be freely expressed and creative behavior is not punished.
- Work towards flatter or matrix organizational structures
- Train employees across levels in leadership development
- Identify organizational role models to mentor and coach employees in Leadership
- Form cross-functional teams where employees can be free from hierarchical compulsions and contribute ideas and act without constant supervision
- Align performance review and reward systems to encourage initiative and innovation in employees
- Communicate top management support to promote leadership behavior in employees
Unless employees feel free to act without fear of punishment or retribution, Leadership will remain centered among the maximum few levels of the company. And that is certainly not healthy for the organization, for it means Leadership remains the exclusive domain of a chosen few in the company’s top rungs.
Also, many potential leaders may not be exhibitionists or extroverts who tom-tom their achievements. These employees need to be identified early, nurtured, and encouraged to develop and apply their leadership skills in the workplace. Else, organizations stand to lose out on potential leadership talent that may make a radical difference adequately and appropriately harnessed.
Conclusion – A Good Leader
So if we had to compile a generic list of the qualities of a good leader, what is the template we should consider? From what we have discussed in this article, based on numerous theories, it can be concluded that leadership approaches and styles must keep evolving with changing realities. Task and subordinate considerations, organizational objectives, and environmental factors influence Leadership.
I have suggested a few qualities that every good leader has, reso their personality or background or education, or even area of work, which are:
- Initiative or the desire to do something new.
- Positive attitude, without which Leadership cannot exist.
- Confidence is the hallmark of all leaders.
- Vision, or the ability to see the big picture.
- A sense of responsibility towards the task, towards followers.
- Commitment to what needs to be done.
- Integrity or personal honesty.
- Empathy towards others.
- Willingness to take risks, without which nothing new can be achieved.
- Acceptance of failure is an essential factor in the process of Leadership.
In conclusion, everyone has the potential to develop leadership characteristics. You need to let go of your inhibitors, the fears, and insecurities that chain you and not let you grow to your full potential.
You become a good leader when you feel free to achieve what you want to, when you develop a sense of responsibility towards your fellow beings, when the goal is clear to you, and you prepare to lead from the front.
Happy Leadership to you, folks!
This has been a guide to Good Leader. Here we have discussed the basic concept and the top best qualities of becoming a good leader. You can also go through our other suggested articles to learn more –