Thursday, December 3, 2009

What Makes a Great Leader?

This post is by Justin Dixon Photo courtesy of Tony the Misfit
I have always been interested in leadership. I have always thought about men like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Thomas Jefferson. As long as I can remember I have always looked for the secrets that made these leaders so great. That made it so that we still remember their names today. What makes a person a great leader? The thing about being interested in something is you can’t help but learn an incredible amount about it. This is everything I’ve learned so far.

Great leaders have a story. Humans think in stories, its actually the number one way we learn.  A great leader takes a simple story, a simple needed message, and doesn’t just tell it, they embody it. For Gandhi the story was that India needed its independence, and that the only people who could be governed were a people who chose to obey. Every leader has a story, its what makes us respect them in the first place.

Great leaders are servants. The role of a leader is not to be over people, but to become a servant to a message and to every person who may benefit from this message. They know that if example is the highest form of leadership and it is service that is needed than an example of service must be set.

Great leaders don’t care who gets the credit. They just want their message spread in the best possible way. Whether that means them leading the crowd or not.

Great leaders take time for themselves. Every major leader in history made a regular habit of getting away from the influence and demands of every one else for a little while to spend some time working on there own beliefs. If you are always around the same crowd you will all start to think alike, and than who will come up with new ideas?

Great leaders offer something of value. If nobody needs something than there is no story tell, there is no service to be given, and thus there is no opportunity for leadership. Leadership is about offering value to your supporters and your team.

Great leaders call out the best in people. The do not accept the idea that other men should be less than them. Instead they call out the best in each man, and show us what we can really be.

Great leaders are more concerned with their message than with what others might think. Every major leader in history has had some voice condemn them. Gandhi broke the law and went to prison, Buddha challenged the major religion of his country, Jesus was crucified, and Martin Luther King was shot. These men all knew the risks that they were taking on. Their message was just more important to them, than whether anyone would agree, or even if it would of put their lives in danger.

Great leaders are passionate. You can only promote something you don’t care about for so long before it gets to you. Every human is like this and great leaders are no exceptions. These people are just so passionate about what they are doing and what they are fighting for that it becomes infectious. We get excited about things when they are presented by someone who is excited about what they are doing and talking about.

Great leaders are down to earth. Jefferson ironed his own socks. Gandhi did all of the servants work in the house. Jesus said “turn the other cheek”. They weren’t super humans, they were human, and that is what made them great.

They didn’t start off great. In fact, they didn’t even start as leaders. Whether anyone would have listened to them or not, they started, and through every struggle they kept going until they got good at it.

They did not give up. If you think its bad having your mom or dad tell you that your idea is bad imagine an entire culture tell you that you are wrong. This is the inevitable result of doing or saying something different from the norm. Even more impressive is that they didn’t give up before becoming accomplished at their goals.
“A professional writer is an amateur who did not give up”~Richard Bach
So leadership takes a message that serves, puts passionate service to that message over ego, starts off small, and doesn’t give up. What leaders have you known with these traits? What other traits have you noticed in great leaders? What are you going to do about it?