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What Makes a Great Leader

April 05, 2018 3:11 PM | Anonymous

By Suzanne Lanctot
Managing Director
About Suzanne

What do Alexander the Great, Alfred the Great and Catherine the Great all have in common? They were all considered to be great leaders – what made them great?

Alexander the Great had incredible success as a military commander, due to his bold strategy, his ability to vary his tactics, and the loyalty of his troops. He was described as perceptive, logical and shrewd. He had a great thirst for knowledge, a love for philosophy and was an avid leader. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great. I’m sure having Aristotle himself as his personal mentor had its advantages.

Alfred the Great was described as open-minded, an advocate for education, and an exceptional listener. He had a reputation as an educated, knowledgeable and merciful man. He improved the legal system, military structure and the quality of life for his people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

Catherine the Great had a reputation as a benefactor of the arts, literature, and education. Russia was revitalized under her reign and was recognized as one of the great powers of Europe. She was described as courageous, intelligent, logical, optimistic and ambitious. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_the_Great

What qualities do they all have in common? Strategy, ambition, courage; knowledge and education; perception, logic; and the respect and admiration of the people around them.

In my life, I can recall a few leaders who really made a positive impact. And all of those leaders shared the following qualities:

  • Commitment to the truth
  • Cultivate wisdom and education
  • Lead by example
  • Clarity of purpose and cause, shared vision
  • Consistency with decisions
  • Willing to make sacrifices, willing to take risks
  • Creative thinker, self-aware, perceptive
  • Vulnerability and humility
  • Listening and good communication
  • Integrity and strong moral character
  • Ability to innovate, adapt and collaborate; build relationships
  • Passion and inspiration
  • Encourage input, be open to change, empower people, team player

Leadership is asking questions, building teams, building trust, and equipping others to lead. Leadership requires confidence, creativity, compassion, conviction, consistency, and the ability to influence others. BEING a leader is about building relationships and inspiring and engaging others.

In nonprofits and associations, we use the term servant leader, which “focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.” https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/

A servant leader should have the following qualities:

  • Ability to listen effectively
  • Empathy, perceive others circumstances and points of view
  • Awareness of self and others
  • Healing influence, purpose and intention
  • Commitment to the growth of people and self
  • Building community, building trust
  • Persuasion and influence, attunement to others
  • Conceptualization, helping to shape the vision
  • Strategic foresight, envisioning the future
  • A culture of stewardship, caring for others

Those of us privileged to serve in the nonprofit sector should strive to apply these qualities of leaders and servant leaders in our daily lives when dealing with family and friends, bosses and co-workers, colleagues, constituents and the general public.

We may not get the term “the great” behind our names, but we should strive to be “great” at what we do.


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