What is a leader? What is a good leader?

A leader overseeing her teams work.

What is a leader? You may answer that question with “My boss” or “My Manager” or something along those lines. While those people are definitely in control of you and a group of people, does this really constitute being a leader? I’d argue that you can be a boss, but not be a leader at all.

So lets delve into what exactly a leader is. There’s a lot to be said on the topic, and i will most likely speak on it again in the future. But lets get some basics down.

A leader cares for their peopleĀ 

In preparation for this topic, i thought id get in contact with some of my own past leaders in the military that i thought were outstanding. And gather from them what they thought were the most important characteristics of a good leader. There was one thing all but one of them said, what was it?

“Take care of your people”

I find this is the single most important part of being a leader in any situation. Taking care of your people ties into almost any fundamental of leadership. If your team is happy, motivated, and has high morale you can expect the work to get done efficiently and with high quality.

You shouldn’t only care about the work though, as a leader you need to have a genuine care for the people under you. That just goes into being a good person overall.

Here’s a quote from someone i had over me about 3 years ago when i asked her the same question:

I had a CO(Commanding Officer) who always took care of his marines, making sure that we were his 1st priority, more than the flight schedule or making his fitrep (Fitness report) look good. This made all the marines bust their butt for him on a daily basis and not want to disappoint him. I never heard anyone have anything bad to say about him and know that all of us would follow him into battle without blinking an eye

It’s clear from not only the above quote, but most likely your own experiences that a leader who takes care of his people will foster a certain respect that cannot be valued enough. Take care of your people, and they will take care of you.

A Leader motivates their team.

A good leader will not only be motivated about the project him/herself. They will be able to motivate the members of their team. Everyone will look to you, peoples motivation, attitude and morale will be based upon you. This is easier said than done, especially in hard times.

Appeal to peoples emotions, Share in their sacrifice(You gotta get in the dirt sometimes as the leader too), Give people reasons for what you’re asking them to do. Trust your team, Challenge people. All things you can do to motivate people. There’s others as well, Things you can think of yourself to motivate a team. Its only limited by your own creativity.

A Leader manages their team.

Management is a whole topic in of itself. Entire books are written on the subject and executives hire people to coach them in management. Its hard to break down management into a bite sized paragraph but to put it briefly; You are the torch bearer for your team. You need to have a clear goal and a means to achieve that goal. Your plan should be well thought out and visualized in order to communicate this to your team.

it goes beyond that though, Management ties into taking care of your people. You need to counsel them, answer questions, guide projects. Taking care not to micromanage but insuring the project is going in the right direction.

Management is another topic i will delve into further, but that is for another post.

There’s a lot to be said about what a leader is and does. If i could boil it down i would say a leader is somebody who cares for their team, Has a clear and defined goal along with a path to that goal, and manages and oversees the team in order to ensure work gets done and morale stays high.

Thanks for reading! i appreciate you stopping by. If you’re interesting in the topic of leadership i have a post about my fundamentals of leadership here

Thank you again and have a wonderful day!