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A Lesson in Leadership

A senior at our local high school, a young lady I’ve known since her birth, asked me to answer questions regarding leadership. I loved this exercise that made me pause and reflect, but I especially appreciated the opportunity to mentor this future leader, even if only through a short article like this.

Q: What makes a good leader?

A: First, there is a difference between someone hired into a role of authority (think boss) and a leader although they could be the same thing. You will find lots of articles and training to figure this out, which is why this is such a fascinating question to ponder. When I think of leaders who have influenced me to be the leader I try to be, I think of a person having these characteristics and talents and why.

  • Curiosity: when starting from a place of curiosity about oneself and the world around us is crucial to being able to understand other people’s perspectives, opinions, triggers, and ideas.

  • Empathy: this is the ability to understand, relate and/or feel another person’s emotions. You can be kind, considerate and compassionate, without having empathy – not having this keeps a leader from truly being able to connect deeply with others.

  • Intelligence, wisdom, and the desire to be a life-learner: being smart is a great start but being able to learn from events and through others is what makes a leader wise.

  • Moral compass: makes decisions knowing wrong from right.

Q: What are some traits that make a bad leader?

A: Besides not having the above traits, Ego can ruin team success, slow down or stop progress, and tear down organizations and systems.

Q: How does a leader earn respect?

A: A leader earns respect by working for the greater good and by being authentic. Trust occurs when people are consistent in their behavior, and it is difficult to earn respect when you cannot earn trust. Sadly, there are great leaders who deserve respect but don’t always get it because others don’t have realistic expectations of leadership. There are bad leaders who are worshipped (different from being respected but it gets confused) which falsely puts these people on pedestals they don’t deserve. I consider many professional athletes or movie stars and ALL OF THE Kardashian family as part of this group who is respected for the wrong reasons.

Q: Who are some leaders in history that you admire?

A: Eleanor Roosevelt: I chose her to write about while in high school and I have adored her ever since. She was an excellent role model for women leaders that still holds true today. Other leaders I am fascinated by are those who have faced extreme challenge and difficulties, such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower – and I especially enjoy learning about the women behind the men who helped influence them.

Q: What are steps you take to lead others in a positive way?

A: I’ve been blessed to have been hired to manage many people, and I took that role seriously knowing I not only could help them (and our organization) be more successful professionally, but I could also help them be inspired to reach their greatest potential. Regardless of my role, I strived (and still do) to treat all people fairly and not dependent upon their position or title. For instance, when I walk into a business wanting to visit with the CEO, I believe the receptionist deserves the same level of respect and attention as the “big boss.” My passion for helping others become the best versions of themselves is the reason why I created my own business that I operate today where I am a trainer and coach (for professionals, not to be confused with athletics!). This same passion has led me to help with the church group, run for school board, volunteer for many civic and charitable organizations. In addition, one of the simplest but overlooked step a leader can – and should – take is simply to be available and approachable. The second step is for a leader to mentor so that we can continue creating individuals to lead us into a better future.

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