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June 21, 2023

What Makes a Good Leader?

Lucy Bishop


It's the age-old question senior members of the team always ask themselves... "What makes a good leader?" and "Am I one?"

Speaking from personal experience, it's a tricky question to answer. I've had great leaders. Ones that have inspired me, guided me, and from whom I've learned a great deal. They're the ones that listened to me, that I knew I could go to with any question or any problem, and they'd do their utmost to support me in my work and my life.

But, I've also had my fair share of not-so-great leaders. The ones that simply didn't really care about me. The ones that forgot my name all the time. They never listened. They were often entirely absent, particularly when I needed them the most. Or, they were always there... the micromanagers. They'd look at everything with an overly critical eye. And while that's not always necessarily a bad thing, it was often the way they delivered their criticisms that stung. Sometimes they could just be plain mean about it. And instead of motivating me, they often did the opposite to the point that work became a pretty bad place to be.

What Is Leadership?

Traditionally, leadership was seen as hierarchical. You had the leader, right at the top... hero-like in the respect and worship they felt was expected from us underlings at the bottom... but also, untouchable and unknowable.

Luckily, in most organizations, ideas around leadership have changed since then. Nowadays, leaders are very much seen as people-centric. They want to work in the best interests of their people, their customers and their stakeholders.

In the first in our new series of videos, we ask What Is Leadership? And explore the four fundamentals of good leadership – as well as some of the key things leaders should avoid.

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The Leader as Influencer

Influencing is one of the key characteristics that great leaders demonstrate. This doesn't mean "pushing" people to do things. Instead, it's about encouraging and motivating people to buy into a vision that they want to work toward achieving.

But with influence comes power. And leaders need to understand that they must wield the power that they have in a positive way. Because, if they don't, just like in a game of dominoes, things can end up collapsing around them very quickly.

In the second of our leadership videos, Dunham and Pierce's Leadership Model, we explore how the leader, their followers, and the context (in other words, the workplace and culture) are all interconnected. And how negative interactions between these three can lead to failed outcomes – or, alternatively, how positive interactions can lead to success!

Looking After Your People

When I was young, we used to play a game called "follow the leader." Perhaps you played it too. Essentially, the leader of the gang would stick out their leg, all their followers would do the same. They might pull a funny face, and everyone else would mimic it back, laughing. But, soon the game would get boring, we'd all go off, and the leader, well without any followers, who did they have left to lead?

People are what make leaders. So, if you don't look after your people, or motivate them properly, you'll soon find yourself isolated and alone. Perhaps no longer a leader.

In the final video of our series on leadership, we explore how leaders can look after their people using a model known as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. In it, we explore the five different needs that people have, and how leaders can satisfy them to help their followers stay motivated, happy and productive.

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With thousands of on-demand resources designed to help you thrive – join Mind Tools and acquire the workplace skills that matter.
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