CADDManager on November 30th, 2009

Leadership is a much needed quality that most people are looking for in others. They want political leaders, sports leaders, business leaders, spiritual leaders and so much more. But what about that quality in us? Are you a leader? Do you have leadership qualities? I am speaking on the subject of leadership at Autodesk University. So I present some of my thoughts here.

What makes a leader?

There are many list of traits and qualities that leaders possess. Some are very formal. Some are kind of random and not really presented in an organized manner. I don’t really think that any one quality of leadership stands first or second. Some rank them as if you could get a top ten list. I have produced lists, but no top tens. Every time I create a list I think I can get them in a specific order, but when I look again – the order changes.

Others may make lists in specific order and I appreciate that. I have no problem with writers attempting to place things in order, but with leadership it is hard to do. This is because leadership is a complete package. It is the combination of many qualities that make the whole. Every leader has a different mix. No one list is the consummate, complete or exhaustive collection. Even if there was a list like this, no one would embody the entire list at all times.

Leaders are flawed. A leader may excel in an individual trait at one time and just to fail at that same trait at another time. What makes leaders succeed is the overall collection of traits they possess and the percentage of positive times they exhibit that trait. The greater percentage of collective positives makes them a leader.

Whenever I look at a list of traits that someone makes for leadership, I see areas that I need to improve, areas that feel fairly good about and areas which I continue to fail at over and over.

So what makes a leader? A leader is usually either one because of desire or need.

Leadership may begin with a desire to be one. A desire to improve. A desire to work at it. This desire may come from inside you, or outside. But a desire is there. Leaders want to be leaders. This goes beyond just being a better “You”. It is a call toward making an impact on others.

Leadership may come from a need. Someone needs to lead and you may be stuck doing it. This may not be a great reason, but it happens. The first (a desire to lead) is better than the second. I do not think that this is really leadership. It is more akin to management. Someone needs to make sure something gets done. It could be leadership, but if you are pressed in to service, it is most likely management skills that got you there.

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One Response to “What makes a Leader?”

  1. Leaders are always elected. A person can only be a leader if someone follows them, so in that sense, followers always create or elect a leader. Leaders are elected because they have some skill that other people want. Still, not everyone who is talented can be a leader. Leadership is about vision and infectious enthusiasm.

    Leaders who self-appoint are like the slow driver at the front of the line – they are not in fact leading, just holding others back while they parade themselves about. These folks are not effective because they are there due to their own egos rather than the fact that someone else recognized and valued talent or skill.

    Also, leadership is often confused with management. Management types are usually bad leaders. A leader requires some sort of skill of substance, while managers are typically only skilled at organization. I personally think that management is the singly overrated job description in existence. It is rare to combine effective leadership and management in the same person.

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