Do Leadership Qualities Make Good Leaders?
There have been many strong leaders throughout history: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Ronald Reagan, Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden just to name a few. They were all leaders who had vision and were driven and passionate about their cause. They knew how to sway their followers, and they got results. But, I bet as you read that list, you became a little uneasy, even frustrated as you moved towards the end. Despite the status of being a strong leader, not all of these people are admired or even respected. Some of these names, despite their strong leadership, are despised and hated. What kind of leader do you want to be?
Early on in my professional career, I was filled with youthful energy and excitement. I wanted to make an impact and was willing to give everything I had to the non-profit I was working for because I believed in the mission. I wasn’t looking for accolades or praise from my boss, I just wanted to make a difference. Then, one day a secretary pulled me aside to show me a letter sent to my boss inviting him to attend a recognition ceremony. The project my team had been working on, one that I had poured my heart into, was being publicly recognized for its impact on the community. The secretary said they had called asking whom to recognize, and my boss told her to put his name on it. In reality, he knew very little about the project. Yet, when the praise and recognition came, he claimed it for himself. My respect for him withered that day and on numerous other occasions afterward I saw that he valued self-promotion more than he valued the team.
That experience taught me the difference between a strong leader and an extraordinary leader. He gave us tools to perform and pushed for high levels of success, but at the end of the day, he deflated the team, exhausted our energy, and eventually lost each of us to other employers. He was a strong leader, but he lacked the qualities to be an extraordinary leader.
What kind of leader do you want to be?
We all know the obvious qualities of a strong leader: vision, creativity, dedication, confidence. But if you truly want to be an extraordinary leader, you have to be more than just someone who can move the crowd and get the job done. In his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell says, “If you can connect with others at every level… your relationships are stronger, your sense of community improves, your ability to create teamwork increases, your influence increases, and your productivity skyrockets. If you want to be an extraordinary leader you need to be someone who adds value to others and connects with them.”
Last year, I was with John in Paraguay. Hundreds of coaches from the John Maxwell Team had just spent an incredible week building the leaders of Paraguay and helping them learn how to intentionally add value to others. It was an amazing time, but it was exhausting. As I sat at my departing gate, John and his “right hand man” strolled up and sat down a short distance away. Knowing how long and hard the week had been, and feeling a bit intimidated, I gave them space. A few minutes later, John came over to me with a box in hand and said, “Would you like a piece of chocolate?” We shared a few chocolates, and then, despite his exhaustion, he thanked me for my time and effort, gave me a hug, and smiled as a friend took some pictures.
John has learned and put into practice the qualities of being an extraordinary leader, and I’m so thankful for his mentoring in my life. He has taught me leaders need to be intentional about adding value and connecting to those within their sphere of influence.
Add value: Rather than fixating on yourself and your list, place value on others! Take time to focus on others, appreciate them, lift them up, show them you care by listening to what they have to say, find out what they need, and help them to fulfill that need.
Connect with others: Choose to spend time with those around you. Believe in them, be available, listen intently, get to know who they are, ask questions, share similar stories (especially funny ones), and be open with your emotions.
My first boss showed me who I don’t want to be. John has helped me to see who I can become. While there are many qualities to a good leader, there are a few that set you apart as extraordinary. What kind of leader do you want to be?
In addition to being a wife and mother, Dr. Sherri McClurg is the CEO of New Horizons for Children, an international orphan hosting program. She has her doctorate in clinical psychology and manages a private mental health practice for children and adolescents in Ohio. She is a certified coach, trainer, and speaker with the John Maxwell Team and has provided leadership growth and development training to young people and adults, domestically and internationally, in schools, churches, courts, and other organizations. Her passion is to educate and empower people and organizational systems, to develop skills and strategies that promote healthier relationships and stronger processes, while overcoming dysfunctional patterns and obstacles that hinder growth.