Qualities of a good leader

Lately, many of my conversations have been on the subject of leadership. This topic often comes up during the election season, but it’s also been the focus of several discussions within my business, as well as a number of community organizations in which I’m involved. Discussing leadership happens any time there is a collective group attempting to maneuver toward a common goal.

I’ve been thinking about what good leadership looks like. Exactly what qualities make a good or great leader? At this point, if you read this column regularly, you are probably wondering what else I could possibly add to this subject without merely repeating myself ad nauseam. Well, I’ve got a few more comments before I agree that this horse is truly beaten to death.

Now, I’ve said before that good leadership never chooses their personal agendas over the good of the community. But let me be more emphatic. Good leadership also puts the welfare of the public commonwealth over any and all personal gain. And, if that’s not strong enough, I’ll add this. If any personal gain is in direct opposition to the public welfare, good leadership will subjugate that gain immediately. And if you think that statement is naive or unrealistic, then you just might be part of the problem.

Please remember that I’m a capitalist. But I also think that crushing the competition or owning the entire game board is bad capitalism. Winners and losers should be determined by the quality of the product, service, or the idea, not the size of the purse. The results of capitalism should be the achievement of the common good. Additionally, everyone’s input must be sought and considered, and that only happens when there is a willful intent to do so. I don’t think I have ever seen a truly benevolent dictator. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and good leadership avoids it.

In his blog called The Practical Leader, Jack Dunigan talks about the qualities of good leadership. He writes that good leadership starts with personal ethics and integrity, followed by purpose, personal restraint, knowledge and adaptability. Good leadership must have focus, problem solving, and decision making skills. Add to that influence, risk management, innovation, strategic development and vision. Good leadership surely must know the difference between motivation and manipulation.

Lastly, good leadership considers others. It communicates effectively, develops others, demands truth, and builds relationships. Ultimately, great leadership implies sacrifice. And sacrifice isn’t the same thing as a negotiated public relations purchase. There certainly is a “happy buyer, happy seller” opportunity, as well as a “win-win” prospect.

In the service industry business, identifying good leadership is pretty simple. We have to train most of our employees through shoulder-to-shoulder example. It’s our experience that the best leadership begins with being the best servant.

A great leader is everyone else’s servant.

(Cecil Childress is the former chairman of Downtown PKB, a member of the Area Roundtable, chairman of the Blennerhassett Island Foundation and has served on numerous local boards of directors.)