What Does Good Leadership Look Like?

It is a great question often asked in the context of trying to figure out what makes a manager a good leader. But I’d like to explore the question on a more personal level – What makes you a good leader in economic development? What are the specific behaviors you can master that will help you be an even better leader than you are today?

I think the exploration of this question is best done as a Community, so I want to encourage you to weigh in with your thoughts. Of course, it always helps to have a head start on any exercise. So, I will start the discussion by sharing 7 things you should be doing if you want to be a great leader. My list is based on what I learned during my career at Procter & Gamble. I was blessed to be in the presence and mentored by some absolutely amazing leaders like John Pepper, A.G. Lafley and Bob McDonald. So I have thought back over my 33-years and tried to capture a few timeless behaviors that if mastered put you o the lifelong path of being a great leader. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list. It is simply a start to what will hopefully be a great discussion. But, I hope you think it is a good start.

Here are links to my earlier posts on the subject of personal leadership.



Seven Behaviors You Need To Master To Be A Great Leader

  1. Recognize opportunities. You need to be able to connect the dots and create a vision of what can be realistically achieved. Then you need to challenge yourself and others to deliver results.
  2. Use a variety of resources effectively. One of my favorite ways of describing this skill is the ability to leverage OPM – Other People’s Money, OPR – Other People’s Resources, and OPK – Other People’s Knowledge.
  3. Prioritize your work and handle multiple priorities well. This requires you to overcome obstacles and take appropriate risks. It also means you have to be able to stop working on low priority initiatives so you have the time to handle the non-urgent but important tasks.
  4. Find ways to do things better. It is what I describe as working “on” the system and not just “in” the system. By figuring out how to improve how things are done, you leave a personal mark on everything you touch positively impacting everybody who follows in your footsteps.
  5. Know your work better than anybody else. Become a subject matter expert, the person others go to for insight. Get training if needed. But, no excuses. It builds trust and respect, critical leadership characteristics.
  6. Respect and leverage Management. Strive to keep Management informed. “No surprises” should be your goal. That means get good news communicated up the chain of command fast and bad news even faster. Protect your Manager’s back.
  7. Have a point of view, but the common sense to know when to back off and trust Management’s judgment. Pick your battles wisely and be open to builds on your ideas. But also be able to stand your ground and support your position with principles and data when you are advocating doing the right thing. I firmly believe each of us will face the challenge of taking a position we know is right but puts our job or advancement on the line at least once in our career. When the time comes, I hope you have the courage to do the right thing.

What Is Missing From The List?

I am sure you have thoughts on additional behaviors you need to master to be a great leader. Please provide a comment and share them. If we each add to the list, eventually we will have a very robust picture of what we each need to do to be a great leader. I have started the dialogue and now I need you to continue it. Please think about the one thing behavior you believe is most obvious by its absence. Describe it in a comment.

Leadership Thoughts From Several Amazing P&G Leaders

John Pepper

A.G. Lafley

Bob McDonald

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17 Comments so far

  1. Carlos Sanchez

    April 27, 2011

    If I had to add something to this list, it would be based on the leadership of Lao-Tzu, he once said : ” A leader is best When people barely know he exists, When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, They will say: We did it ourselves…”

    Great insights!
    Carlos Sanchez

  2. Dave Clarke

    April 28, 2011

    You’re a good leader if you look around you and find followers.

  3. mp3 converter

    April 29, 2011

    Thank you for this valuable post. It changed my mind and It changed my attitude.

  4. John G. Cartor

    May 1, 2011

    As a retired executive with P&G who worked with Ed Burghard, there were additional Principles of Leadership I adopted from General Colin Powell which served me well. Although some might suggest these principles came from a military officer and question their applicability to other venues, I would submit they have application in any setting where strong, courageous and effective leadership is required to attain desired results. These Principles are listed below.

    General Colin Powell
    “The art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible”

     Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.
    o Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity
    o You’ll avoid the tough decisions, differentiating rewards on differing performance
    o You’ll end up angering your best people
    o Leadership is sometimes lonely. If you’re afraid of not being liked by everyone, you’re in the wrong job.

     Create Trust with your people
    o When they ask for help when they need it is not a sign of weakness, but of strength
    o Problem analysis replaces blame

     Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites
    o Often possess more data than judgment

     Encourage constructive dissent
    o If you have a “Yes Person” working for you, one of you is redundant

     Never Neglect Details
    o Strategy equals execution
    o Delegate and empower, but keep your eye on the ball

     You don’t know what you can get away with until you try
    o Be courageous and take some risks to attain goals
    o Authority is assumed not given

     Keep looking below surface appearances
    o Be proactive in taking steps to solve problems as they emerge
    o Don’t be afraid of what you may find

     You win [or fail] through your people, not you
    o Get the best
    o Develop the best
    o Don’t hang on to the problems – deal with them
    o The question is not: How well did you perform your job since the last time we met, but How much did you change it. Willingness to learn new skills, raise their bar higher

     Don’t chase the latest management fad
    o Situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the goal

     Realistic Optimism is a force multiplier
    o Focus on the possibilities, not the limitations
    o We can be the best

     Be a great simplifier
    o Strategy is about choices; Leadership is about choices
    o Keep your people focused

     Probability of success = 40-70
    o Making a decision is often better than making no decision. Don’t become paralyzed if you don’t have 100% of the facts

  5. Deborah Dudley

    May 2, 2011

    In my recent experience at the State University of New York at Potsdam with the assault of budget cuts coming at us from reduced State support and a sluggish economy the critical aspect of leadership that we rely on is right now is “do your homework.” This is a time where leaders need to make very difficult decisions. With any difficult decision the ability to consistently articulate the rationale behind any strategic decision is vital to the buy-in and future collaboration on making those strategies work over the long run. Nothing is easy about making strategic cuts, but the most effective leadership, in my opinion, has been accompanied by a transparency and articulation of solid rationale behind leadership decisions.

  6. Robert Mizen

    May 2, 2011

    Great ideas, I think good leaders empower their employees to be good leaders.

  7. Jennifer Vallarautto

    May 5, 2011

    Excellent topic and incredible information. What I love about it is how it isn’t knowledge for an exclusive group of people. Rather, these are all great tools for each of us to take time to develop our own leadership qualities.

  8. John Rees

    May 5, 2011

    Great leaders inspire those around them. And you don’t decide if you are a great leader – those that follow you do.

  9. Gerard Stocks

    May 5, 2011

    “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

    How? By encouragement not coercion, earning respect not demanding it, leading from the front – taking responsibility, not asking others to do what you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself – rather than from behind, listening to all the proposals and suggestions before deciding on a course of action opposed to blind autocracy, praise every accomplishment however minor and only pass judgement on major misgivings. And most of all remember to say ‘Thank You’. These are but a few of the qualities of good leadership.

  10. Sukhjit Manhas

    May 5, 2011

    Great leaders have people follow them when they treat others with respect. They will give responsibility and allow people to grow. When mistakes are made they ultimately stand up and take the blame because it is the leader who is responsible. They encourage people to come out of their shells so that they can become who they want to be professionally and personally. The biggest thing about being a great leader is that they care.

  11. Chris Wiseman

    May 6, 2011

    Thanks for such a poignant question! You are a great leader when you are a servant to those you lead.

    Servant leadership is the unifying “string theory” that binds the art of leadership with the craft of management and the service of others both inside and outside the organization.

  12. Mitch McCrimmon

    May 6, 2011

    The question “What does good leadership look like?” can’t be answered, in my view, because it is in the eye of the beholder. It’s whatever people choose to follow and there’s no accounting for taste. If you define leadership as an influence process, then it is whatever will influence prospective followers. Hitler was a “good” leader in this sense simply because he had followers.

    When I look at the detail behind this question and some of the comments, it seems to me that most people more or less identify leadership with management which also makes the question very hard to answer. Unfortunately, we tend to idealize leaders. This question can be reframed as “What is your ideal leader?” I have argued at length that this is a myth, that trying to answer it says more about us than it does about leadership. See my article on this issue, The Ideal Leader: http://www.lead2xl.com/the-ideal-leader – any comments much appreciated.

  13. Alexandria Cohen

    May 9, 2011

    All excellent comments with valid points.

    I think that the difference between managing and leading should be more emphasized as it is such an important perspective to keep in mind.

    Management should provide structure, be process oriented, task directed and “do things right” to drive output; while Leaders need to operate on a different strategic level where they challenge and empower resources, exercise influence and inspire a vision of the future… they should be more focused on the organization as a whole and “doing the right things” responsibly. (Partially Kouzes and Posner inspired thinking here)

    Also looking at why people follow reveals that people follow leaders who exemplify Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope. These characteristics can be translated many ways, but originate from “Strengths Based Leadership” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.

    Regardless of the exact words used… in my opinion, an appropriate combination of all the above uniquely applied to each situation in a compelling manner that inspires performance and courage through the chaos of a storm is what makes a leader truly great.

    Additional comments or thoughts…?

  14. aparat cyfrowy

    May 23, 2011

    Quite a good article. I basically stumbled upon your webpage and desired to mention that I have definitely liked studying your blog and blogposts. Anyway I’ll be following your feed and I hope to read your blog again.

  15. Matthew Pawlowski

    April 5, 2012

    Understanding where your own strengths and weaknesses are; knowing that you don’t know everything. Acknowledging, at least to yourself, that there are those you lead who’s subject matter knowledge, skills and abilities exceed yours in these matters; valuing these individuals, giving them the tools to do their job, giving them the credit when the job is done well and protecting them from outside attacks when there is a mistake. (Which means, in my opinion, taking sole responsibility for your groups performance, since you are the leader, for the errors that occur

  16. Mike Ammann

    April 5, 2012

    The effective leader

    The foundation of effective leadership is thinking through the organization’s mission, defining it and establishing it, clearly and visibly. The leader sets the goals, sets the priorities, and sets and maintains the standards.

    How do you find the proper direction?

    To become a great strategist, you have to “put your mind in the mud of the marketplace.”

    You have to find your inspiration down at the front, in the ebb and flow of the great marketing battles that are taking place in the mind of the prospect.

    The ability to deal with competitors, change and crisis is found at the front lines of the marketplace. Get a good, honest evaluation of the competition out of the sales force.

    Once the world gets around that the CEO prizes honesty and reality, a lot of good information will be forth-coming.

    Direction alone is no longer enough. The best leaders are storytellers, cheer leaders, and facilitators. Leaders reinforce their sense of direction and vision with words and direction.
    Marketing is too important to be turned over to an underling. or Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people.

    Rather than talking things over go out and see for yourself.

    Better to see once than to hear a hundred times.

    You have to put your mind on the tactics of the battle you want to win. You have to focus on your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses in people’s minds. You have to search out that one attribute or differentiating idea that will work in the mental battleground.

  17. Mike McLaughlin

    April 5, 2012

    Very simple – lead by example! If you talk-the-talk, you have to walk-the-walk.

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