By Jacob Morgan. January 15, 2020
Most people have been around a bad leader at some point. Someone who doesn’t communicate, sets impossible expectations, or is just difficult to be around. You’ve likely experienced the draining, exhausting feelings from having to work with or for that person. Hopefully, most people have also experienced a great leader. These are the people who inspire and motivate and encourage people to do their best work towards a common goal.
If you’ve experienced a bad leader and a great leader, you know the difference between the two can be night and day. But how do we turn those feelings into real action to develop great, future-ready leaders?
What Makes a Great Leader?
As part of my new book, The Future Leader, I interviewed more than 140 CEOs around the world and asked them each to define leadership. Their definitions were all over the board and included things like leaders being able to drive business success and reach goals to human skills like connecting with people and being humble. One of the main themes was that people believe a successful leader is someone who makes money and grows a business. The financial results definitely contribute to being a successful leader, but there is so much more that goes into becoming a truly great leader.
Consider these two definitions from CEOs I interviewed.
Judy Marks is the CEO of Otis Elevator and leads a team of over 70,000 employees around the world. According to Judy, “I think it’s really the ability to drive results, and I’ll leave that word results fairly generic. My role in terms of leadership is to set the vision and to share it. To create an environment where people can resonate not only with the mission but deliver it. To eliminate obstacles so my team can succeed.”
Hans Vestberg is the CEO of Verizon Communications, an American multinational telecommunications conglomerate with over 152,000 employees around the world. Hans believes leadership is: “Ensuring that people have everything they need to achieve the missions of an organization. That’s it. All else is footnotes.”
Which one most resonates with you and why?
First and foremost, great leaders care about their people. They are willing to go the extra mile to serve and get the job done. A great leader knows that a company isn’t really successful if its numbers improve but its people aren’t happy. Leaders help shape the world and have a profound impact on their employees’ lives. If you’ve had the chance to work for a great leader, you know those lasting feelings: a great leader inspires you to be better, mentors you along the way, and gives you the tools to succeed. Great leaders help the people around them improve, even to the point that their employees are better equipped than the leader themselves. When individuals are motivated and engaged, they naturally want to work harder and better, which brings financial success.
Impact of Great Leaders
Great leaders create engaged employees who want to come to work and give their best effort. A study by Zenger Folkman found that good leaders can double company profits, simply with their ability to motivate and engage employees. Organizations with the highest-quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their competitors. Another study found that how managers lead accounts for a 28% variance in employee job satisfaction. Any company would love to have an increase in employee satisfaction, and it’s as simple as putting great leaders into management positions.
Great leaders also breed other great leaders. If you work for someone you admire and who displays great leadership skills, you’re more likely to also develop those skills and abilities. A great leader is like a pebble dropped in a pond who creates ripples of other good leaders all around them for years to come.
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