The subject of leadership is something I think of often. We are all impacted by our leaders, be it for good or bad, from the President of the United States to our immediate supervisor and parents. Soon, I’ll be teaching a class at our church on how to lead like Jesus. The idea behind the class is to make our church a “leadership factory”, teaching how to be a Christ-centered leader no matter where you lead – business, church, sports, non-profit or the home. What better place to learn how to lead like Jesus than the church?
As I prepared to teach the class, I once again gave thought to what the essential qualities of a great leader are. These are qualities that apply to all leaders, wherever they serve. We could name any number of qualities that would be desirable for a leader to have. For example, John Maxwell is known to say that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.
The 2020 Presidential election is fast approaching. What characteristics will voters find most important when they vote for the leader that will represent our country? Some people may focus more on competency, while others may focus more on character. There were eight manager openings in Major League Baseball after the season ended. What qualities are General Managers looking for as they fill those openings?
If you had to name the 5 most essential qualities of a great leader, what would they be, and why? And, what leader(s) would come to mind that demonstrate each of these qualities. Below I’ll share my thoughts on this.
Vision. I start with this particular quality because I believe its where all great leaders must begin. A great leader needs to develop a compelling vision of the future – for the country, their business, team, church, family etc. They will also need to be able to effectively communicate (communications) that vision, and convince (influence) followers that they are capable of achieving it (competency). But it all starts with the leader having a compelling vision. Example: Steve Jobs of Apple.
Communications. A leader will need to possess excellent verbal and written communications skills so that they can effectively communicate their vision to their followers. They will fall short as a leader – even if they have a good vision for the future – if they are unable to effectively communicate it. Example: Martin Luther King Jr.
Influence. I mentioned the famous quote on influence from John Maxwell above. In his “Law of Influence” from his excellent book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell states that if you can’t influence people, they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader. Example: Martin Luther
Character. Many years ago, I heard someone describe character as doing the right thing when nobody is watching. That definition helps me understand the concept of character. Character is critical for a great leader, and is closely related to the concepts of trust, integrity and servanthood. Example: President Abraham Lincoln.
Competency. We want to know that our leaders are capable of achieving the vision that they have developed and communicated. Do they have the necessary experience and a proven track record of delivering results? If there is any doubt about their competency, leaders will have trouble influencing others to follow them. Example: Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyewski (“Coach K”).
These are my 5 essential qualities for a great leader. It was hard to get my list down to just 5. What qualities would make your list?