What Is A Leader?

by ihidemychocolate

martin-luther-king-jr-watercolor-portrait-on-worn-distressed-canvas-design-turnpike

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many years ago, a new boss of mine insisted that we read Jim Collins’ From Good To Great. It was a collective exercise to encourage us all to think about leadership and to develop our own “Level 5” leadership qualities, as we worked to transform our organization from good to great. The main take-away that I remember from that book is that leaders are humble and put their own self-interest behind what is good for the company.

On this day – honoring Martin Luther King Jr and anticipating the inauguration of someone I think is the antithesis of a leader (let alone a Level 5 leader!) – I am reminded of this book and the path it set me on towards clarifying for me what makes a good leader.

As a yoga teacher, an executive, a mother, a human – I have thought long and hard about what makes people successful and how I can embody the qualities that I value. I marvel at the teachers and bosses and friends who elicit the best from all the people they touch.

These are the qualities of a good leader that inspire me and motivate me.

  • They are teachers. They are patient and explain things well and have no judgment that you should already know something. They are learners, always curious.
  • They are listeners, willing to consider opposing points of view and to grapple with reconciling opposing points of view.
  • They have struggled and are not embarrassed by their struggles – because their hardships make them more approachable and more compassionate. More grateful.
  • They care, passionately, about something. They work hard and will sacrifice at great cost for what they care about. They approach their passion with joy.
  • They make mistakes and can laugh at themselves. They let you make mistakes and don’t make fun of your mistakes. Well, if they laugh at you, it is with affection and understanding.
  • They make other people feel special. Asking questions, listening, and honoring each person as they are, right there right then.
  • They are honest. They do the right thing. They tell the truth and say what needs to be said. Even if it is hard.
  • They are optimistic, confident in their purpose. They foster a team environment and celebrate the holistic gestalt of the team. They are cheerleaders, inspiring and motivating you to be your best.
  • They are inclusive. Every person counts and has a voice. Every one is invited.
  • They are generous. They are kind.

Image Credit: Used with permission from Dave Bowman at Design Turnpike. Thank you!

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