07 Nov 2015

Good or bad leadership? It depends on your perspective.

This is what makes leading people so difficult – we all have different perceptions of good and bad leadership. An autocratic leader could be regarded as decisive, bold and focussed by one person / culture, yet regarded as bossy, headstrong and demanding by another.

What I have found interesting in recent weeks is that the perception of good leadership is variable and an action by a leader can be regarded as good, average or poor depending on the environment and culture the action was taken within as well as the people is affected. 

So what do you see good leadership to be? Here are some of the views of leading leadership writers on what makes good leadership:


“it is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”

Peter Northouse

 “Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not “making friends and influencing people”, that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

Peter Drucker

 “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.”

John Buchan

 “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

John Maxwell

My view tends to lean to the John Maxwell version of leadership – leadership is positive influence. While you may have the same view as I do regarding a definition of leadership, the actions that display that leadership can vary wildly. So rather than focus on a definition of leadership, I am interested to learn what actions / behaviours you respect and admire in your leaders. In short, what actions and behaviours do you regard as good leadership?

Why do this? Because a list of desired traits or good leadership definitions doesn’t provide us with any behaviours that we can replicate or copy to try and become good leaders ourselves. Discovering the behaviours that good leaders practise can help those that want to be good leaders themselves.

One recent management group that I worked with considered these three traits as their top 3:

1.            Ability to translate the big picture into meaningful words / tasks for the team.

2.            Listen to my point of view and take action where necessary.

3.            Ability to make hard decisions, even if information is not complete.

Your top 3 traits could be very diffierent, based on the experiences that you have, the environment you work in and what you have seen others demonstrate that was regarded as successful.

So what are the actions / behaviours that you most respect / admire in a good leader? Are there behaviours that you need to improve within yourself? What behaviours, when missing, cause you the most angst as a follower?

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