It’s a question worth asking. Great leaders run great organizations. If you don’t want to be great at a certain task or job, it’s probably not the job or task for you. But what’s a great leader? How do they separate themselves from bad leaders? Or even good ones. And most importantly, how can we become great leaders?
There are no hard and fast answers to these questions, so I asked several people who have witnessed great leadership or who are great leaders themselves to get a variety of perspectives on the topic. My hope is that you see something in these answers that makes sense to you and/or something that you can put into practice in your own careers.
Randy Berlin, President, DiscountCall.com, Inc.- Randy has been the president of DiscountCall for 14 years and has seen growth in his company as well as dramatic change in the telecommunications industry. Prior to his work in telecommunications, he witnessed leadership in action as a minor league baseball player. Berlin said: “Great leaders are trusted because they are ethical and help others turn into great leaders. They hold people accountable and see a vision. I once read that a leader knows how to pull people for a common goal and not push people. It was demonstrated by putting a piece of cooked spaghetti on the table and asking someone to get it across the table. If you try and push it, most of the strand lags behind. But if you pull it, the whole strand follows perfectly.”
Kevin Salwen, Co-author, The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back- “I think great leaders, more than anything else, are great listeners. Employees, peers, teammates all come in with a desire to do well; it’s in the human spirit to want to succeed and be considered by others as a winner. So, a great leader will listen carefully to both what’s spoken and unspoken (actions, body-language, etc) to understand how to help others remain motivated and to determine what they need to achieve their best performance. If others believe you are listening, they will tell you what they need.”
Haley Kilpatrick, Founder and Executive Director of Girl Talk- Girl Talk is a student-to-student mentoring program that pairs middle school girls with high school girls who serve as mentors. I asked Haley for her take on leadership because she has built an international non-profit organization before the age of 25. She’s someone with a maturity beyond her years and a fresh outlook on leadership. Haley said: ” There’s a significant difference between a good leader and a great leader. Great leaders put others’ needs first and know that by doing so, their needs will always be met. Great leaders have great mentors and are great mentors. Lastly, great leaders know their true worth is determined by how much more they give in value than they take in payment.
Jean Creech, Host & Executive Producer, Bold Ventures Radio- I’m privileged once a week to spend an hour with some of the country’s most insightful, successful and interesting business leaders, who have chosen the path of entrepreneurship. Here’s what I’ve learned from them about how to be a leader:
1. Entrepreneurs have an aura about them; they’re optimistic. They tend to be wicked smart, never give up and instead of taking no, they’re always looking for ways to get to yes, so problem solving and creativity are key factors to great leadership.
2. When asked what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, the majority of my guests say HR. To overcome this challenge, entrepreneurs tend to be thorough and make sure they’re hiring the right person for the position. The person who has the right personality to fit into the culture of the business. The cultural fit of an employee is almost more important than skill set. So a great entrepreneurial leader assesses candidates on culture as well as skill set and then gets out of the way and lets them do their job.
Here are a few comments people made on our Facebook pages:
Alicia Montgomery, Mother of three and one on the way- Patience, empathy, resolve, clarity in communication, intelligence, and hard work.
Calvin Cutz, Owner of Clubhouse Barbers- PERSISTENCE MAKES A GREAT LEADER…
George Jaramillo, President of JCI Atlanta- Constant improvement, passion, and character.