What is a Good Leader?

Every time I ask a group to tell me about some of the best leaders  they have worked with and then describe what behaviours  they exhibit ; it always hits me that we all know instinctively what good and bad leadership is.

If we all know good leadership when we see it why is developing leadership in our organisations often so unclear or unfortunately good leadership so rare?

Knowing what good leadership is doesn’t always translate into understanding ourselves and being aware of the impact on others we have in the world. And having an impact on others is what Leadership is all about but how to do it?

What it means to be a good leader

In this short video: Simon Sinek explains what it means to be a good leader and the importance of service to others.


principles of leadership so again the
key the key idea behind leadership is
putting the well-being of others
sometimes before ourselves considering
the well-being of others so a great
example of how to think about leadership
is something I witnessed when I visited
Quantico Marine base which is where the
Marines select their officers and I did
not hear a single marine say the words I
am a leader I want to be a leader I
aspire to be a leader I think I have
what it takes to be a good leader those
words were never uttered the words you
do here are I’m a leader of Marines I
believe I have what it takes to be a
leader of Marines I aspire to be a good
leader of Marines in other words even in
their own vernacular they see leadership
as a service to another human being a
leader of Marines not just this leader
not this position or title to be held
and and I think that’s what we all have
to remember which is leadership is not a
rank to attain it’s a responsibility and
it’s an honor it’s much like being a
parent you know the choice to have kids
is the fun part
the choice to raise children is the
difficult part I’m amazed because the
first time I spoke to you I said the
same thing to you about your book those
are all biblical principles and you’re
not coming to it from a place of the
Bible but they’re all universal
principles of human prints of their
human principles but I mean it is the
same as you know Jesus says the first
will be last and you know she’s greater
because she took her hair and washed my
feet when that at the time was going to
get around those people but I serve you
I’ll serve I’ll wash your feet and it’s
the same principle back there no
expectation of anything in right and and
back then they didn’t get it and we
still don’t get it and this is why when
we find great leaders the reason we want
to follow them is because they serve as
the example they give us permission they
show us what it looks like they lead the
way you know leadership comes with risk
you go first means you’re the one who
may get in trouble or get your head cut
off right for
for for taking that risk and choice
because Levi to do it does good
leadership have anything to do with
shedding all the trappings of the
leaders and I mean because it some
people will say well they’re they’re
rich or they’re this or that you can
still be there doesn’t matter is no
relationship whatsoever you know as a
leader you know we’re hierarchical
animals naturally and there’s there’s
basis for this which is we used to live
in populations no bigger than 150 people
this presents a bit of a problem
you know these austere times someone
brings back food we all rush in to eat
if you’re lucky enough to be built like
a linebacker you shove your way to the
front if you’re the artist of the family
you get an elbow in the face this is a
bad system for cooperation because the
odds are I’m not going to alert the
person who punched me in the face this
afternoon I’m not going to alert them to
danger this evening when they’re
sleeping right and I’m just going to
leave them so there’s a different system
that had to evolve and we are
hierarchical animals we’re constantly
assessing and judging each other
whose alpha whose beta and when we
assess that someone is alpha to us and
sometimes it’s a formal hierarchy you
know it’s a higher rank and sometimes
it’s an informal thing and it’s not a
constant it’s a relative system when we
assess that someone is alpha we
voluntarily step back and allow our
alphas to eat first alphas get first
choice of meat and first rays of mate
and so the way may not get the best
choice of meat we will get to eat
eventually and we don’t get an elbow in
the face good system and to this day
this system exists and is alive and well
not a single person has a problem with
somebody more senior than them in the
company making a higher salary doesn’t
bother us we may think they’re
ineffective we may think they’re an
idiot but it actually doesn’t bother us
that they get a higher salary because
they’re higher level than us in the
company it doesn’t bothers that they
have a bigger office or a better parking
space however it is in our society being
touted as a bad thing and here’s the
reason okay
because none of that stuff comes for
free you see we are ok with our leaders
being giving preferential treatment and
having the trappings in the perks if
they’re willing to uphold their
responsibilities as a leader it doesn’t
come for free
so root the group is not stupid you see
we expect
we expect that when danger threatens the
tribe when danger threatens the group
that it’ll be the guy who’s stronger
better fed with all that confidence who
will rush toward the danger to protect
us so it’s the one it’s the the reason
why that’s happening is because the big
guys got the bailouts they all kept
their jobs nobody paid the price but
when there was trouble they cut all of
those jobs down there and this is why we
have visceral contempt for some of the
banking CEOs and their disproportionate
salaries and perks it’s not the numbers
it’s that they have violated the very
human definition of what it means to be
a leader we know that they allowed
people to be sacrificed so they could
keep what was theirs or worse they
sacrificed their people so they could
keep what was theirs what have I told
you we were gonna give Nelson Mandela
150 million dollar bonus no big deal how
about Mother Teresa 250 million dollar
bonus right no one has a problem with
the numbers or the perks or the better
life or the people carrying your bags or
calling you sermon no one has an issue
with that like I had a problem when
Jimmy Carter wouldn’t carry his bags
because I was like he’s the point the
president exactly the issue we have is
when you were given all of those
advantages and you are not willing to
uphold the responsibility of of the
leader in other words you think it’s
about you there was a great story which
I was told which I’ll share with you
which I think encapsulates what it means
to be a leader it was a former
Undersecretary of Defense and he retired
about a year prior and he was given a
speech at a large conference about a
thousand people and he’s standing on the
stage giving his prepared remarks
sipping his coffee from the styrofoam
cup he had and he stops and interrupts
himself and he looks down at the cup and
he looks up at the audience he says you
know I spoke at this exact same
conference last year except last year I
was still the undersecretary and I flew
here business class and there was
someone to meet me at the airport and
they drove me to the hotel and they’d
already checked me in and they took me
up to my room I came down the next
morning another person was waiting for
me drove me to this same venue they took
me in the back entrance they took me to
the greenroom and they gave me a cup of
coffee and a beautiful ceramic cup
he says I’m no longer the undersecretary
I flew here coach I took a cab from the
airport to the hotel I checked myself in
this morning I took another cab to this
venue I walked in the front door found
my way backstage and when I asked
somebody do you have any coffee he
pointed to the coffee machine in the
corner and I poured myself a cup of
coffee into this here Styrofoam cup
he says the lesson is the ceramic cup
was never meant for me it was meant for
the position I held I deserve a
Styrofoam cup and this is the point I
think a lot of people in leadership
positions believe that all those perks
that are afforded to them are for that
of them it’s not it’s for the position
they hold and they have a response
because by the way when they leave they
will give those things to the next
person and I think one of the humility
zuv leadership is that we have to
remember though we are given these
things and we can enjoy them and then
let’s be honest it’s good it’s nice it’s
good to be the king it feels good we get
all these advantages but it all comes at
a price first of all it’s given to the
position and not to you that’s number
one and number two we we have to pay for
those things by offering and sometimes
sacrificing what is in our interest for
the good of those around us with a good
who those who who have committed
themselves to see our visions come to
life that’s the responsibility