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June 2010 - What makes a Leader Great?

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John Kline, PhD, inspirational and motivational keynote and after-dinner speaker and corporate trainer.

June 2010

What makes a Leader Great?

When Chancellor Jack Hawkins and I compiled a booklet on “Quotable Quotes on Leadership from Troy University,” we read the thoughts of many people on the subject. Furthermore, as Director of the Institute for Leadership Development at Troy University, I spend much time considering the subject of leadership.  I want to help my students and the persons in the conferences we direct to achieve leadership greatness.  I have come to believe great leaders do three things.

  1. Great leaders inspire, motivate, encourage and promote transformation of an organization and its people.  (Transformational Leadership)  Leadership is more than a transaction or reciprocal exchange between leaders and followers—more than giving something in return for compliance.  Transformational leaders balance attention to both the tasks to be done and the people doing them; their actions create trust and they consistently re-infect the organization and the people with the vision.
  2. Great leaders find good people, give them responsibility, and then help them succeed.  (Shared Leadership)  True shared leadership does not imply absence of a leader who bears ultimate responsibility; no organization will succeed for any length of time without one person at the top.  What shared leadership means is the leader is willing to delegate responsibly (see the September 2006 column), mentor effectively (see columns from April 2005, May 2005 and June 2005) and give followers the tools to develop their own leadership knowledge, skills and ability.  Success and viability of an organization depend upon doing these things.
  3. Great leaders serve others and the organizations to which they belong. (Servant Leadership)  I have written and spoken on servant leadership many places, including the October 2007 and July 2008 columns.  Servant leadership is about doing the right things for the right reasons.  But not only is servant leadership the good and right thing to do, servant leadership promotes follower satisfaction; and satisfied people are productive people.   Simply stated, people accomplish more under servant leadership.  Great leaders are servant leaders.

Since leaders always bear responsibility for what happens in an organization, it follows that one should want to be a great leader.   A leader achieves greatness by service, willingness to share leadership and desire to transform the organization and the individuals in the organization.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

December 2006 - Motivating Others: Communicate Clearly
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