So just what is leadership?

I’m not sure if it is the municipal election campaign or not that has prompted this topic, but I have been asked a lot about “what makes a good leader?”
This was a common question I use to hear adults asking each other as I was a kid growing up. Today, I still hear that question often, but now that question is directed at me.
So, “what does make a great leader?” There have been thousands of leadership books written by various people and leaders. And I think each of them likely has something relevant to being an effective leader.
You see, leadership is not something a person is born with or is born to be. Leadership reflects a number of qualities a person can learn, develop, and foster over time that can make them effective or even ineffective.
If this is true, then just because a person is in a particular position of management, administration, supervision, or leadership doesn’t mean they are a leader; or at least an effective leader.
Over time, we have seen many leaders of various organizations, businesses, sport organizations, and nations that have been ineffective, but we consider them leaders because of the position they held or hold.
So, where do we start defining “what makes a good leader”? How about starting “within you” —know who you are!
As Vince Lombardi, former head coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said, “Know yourself—you can’t improve on something you don’t understand.”
A leader is about improving the status quo, moving forward, making things different—better. An effective leader can’t lead other people if they don’t understand who they themselves are or what they stand for.
All effective leaders stand for something. All effective leaders have a clear and precise vision of the way things will be.
Next, an effective leader must have integrity. You see, leadership is much greater than a person who just possesses a strong character. You cannot be a leader without followers.
All individuals are followers; therefore an effective leader also is a good follower.
It also has been my experience that people holding a position of management, administration, supervisor, co-ordinator, or community leadership is not an effective leader without integrity.
What is meant by integrity? Although it isn’t simple, I like to keep it simple in my explanation.
Integrity is going the extra mile, is about self-sacrifice, is your loyalty, is honesty, is being competent, and finally, successfully completing what you set out to do.
Once a leader has built his/her integrity, they must earn the right to lead. They must start achieving or having success. They must do what they said they would do—they must get results.
The right to lead is about creating positive change and gaining support from others.
We get results by understanding what we stand for first, therefore having a vision of what something will be like later on in the future. We develop our integrity by doing what we said we would do. Then we work hard to achieve.
When we start to achieve, we start to be a leader.
When trying to understand leadership, I also think we have to understand certain laws that pertain to leadership.
Many people have become very effective leaders in their time. They have been very successful at taking people, organizations, and even nations to certain heights or limits before things tend to slow down or even stop.
This doesn’t mean they have become ineffective. It simply means, based on their experience and knowledge, they can’t lead any further.
As defined by John Maxwell, this is the “Law of the Lid.”
The Law of the Lid simply is, based on your experience, knowledge, and ability, you can only lead so far.
The McDonald brothers who started McDonald’s restaurants are an example of the Law of the Lid. They were effective leaders to start McDonald’s restaurants, however, it didn’t become the fast food chain it is today until they sold it.
Because a person holds a particular position doesn’t mean they are a leader, because leadership is about influence. Take the “Law of Influence,” once again by John Maxwell.
It states that because a person is in a position doesn’t mean they are a leader.
One of the most effective ways to measure a person’s ability to lead is to have that person create positive change. Positive change is what we want from our leaders.
A true leader will move people, an organization, a team, or a community in a new direction while a manager will maintain direction. In order to move people or lead, you must have influence.
I believe there are two types of leaders: positional leaders and the real leaders. Next time you are at a meeting or at work, watch who speaks first (usually positional leaders).
Positional leaders tend to speak first because it is their job to. They will rely on real leaders to move change and tend to influence only other positional leaders.
Real leaders, on the other hand, don’t feel the need to always speak first. They will speak when the time is right. They tend to influence most of the people in a room or in an organization all the time.
Their influence of a real leader gets things done.
So, “what makes a good leader?” As I mentioned, there are many aspects that make a good leader. I shared with you a few I believe in. Now, I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Editor’s note: Michael Cameron is regional manager (Development and Innovation) for Confederation College.

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