Does the perfect leader exist?

To paraphrase W. Somerset Maugham, “There are three rules for creating good leaders. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

There are no perfect leaders; any leader worth his or her salt is always trying to improve themselves through study, training, education, mentorship, making mistakes and then learning from them.

As there is no such thing as a perfect leader, it is hard to build a leadership model. And that is why are hundreds of models out there. Nevertheless, we can be sure of a few things that a good leader has or is:

  • The ability to articulate a clear and compelling vision of the future and maintain a laser-like focus on achieving it.
  • The ability to encourage followers to overcome the challenges to achieve the vision.
  • Be a good coach and mentor their followers.
  • Delegate and empowering their followers to get things accomplished.

How can a leader stay motivated?

A leader has to maintain their motivation. Those who try and fake it are quickly exposed as frauds in the eyes of their followers.

Your motivation comes in two forms: external and internal. A statement describing external motivators could be: ‘I need to make a living to survive.’ Whereas an example of an internal motivation statement is: ‘I work because I get a great deal of satisfaction from my job.’

There are many debates as to whether internal or external motivators are the most important drivers: That said good leaders set and achieve goals that balancing both.

Good leaders understand that external motivators lead us into new situations, like a new job. And, our passion for our work (internal) drives us on to achieves new heights.

Is there a difference between a manager and a leader?

All good managers are leaders to various degrees. They need to carry out their organization’s vision by creating their own goals that support the larger view and then, in turn, get their workers to work towards that vision.

For example, Starbucks had a vision of 2000 stores by the year 2000. This goal was one of the driving forces behind the company’s success.

Did the CEO build those 2000 stores himself?

Of course not, the managers and supervisors whose smaller-scale goals directly supported 2000 by 2000 vision achieved that vision.

They in turn accomplished their goals by delegating the means and authority to their subordinates.

You say anyone can become a leader … Really?

You may not become a Churchill, but anyone can lead that has the willingness and drive to achieve to work at being a better leader.

Poor traits can be changed or reduced by become self-aware, then focusing on the more desirable traits and purposefully using them to overpower the unhealthy ones.

This is one reason there are no perfect leaders — we all have a few unhealthy or weaker traits. But the better leaders concentrate on and grow their desirable traits so that they become the dominate in their dealings with people.

What about technology and leadership?

I don’t see technologies affecting leaders, or people for that matter.

What I see are good leaders who achieve their goals by selecting the right tools and processes (technology) to do so.

Good leaders maintain a laser like focus upon their goals and then do what is necessary to achieve them. They do not pick a technology or emerging trend and then try to match achieving a random goal with it.

Is there any trend that could be called “the new leader”? Or have things really not changed that much over the last 100 years?

I don’t believe things have changed that much in millennia.

But we have gotten a better understanding the science of human behaviours over the last hundred years or so.

Attila the Hun, Alexander, Caesar, Lincoln and Churchill all understood how to lead people based on their experiences and intuition. Their leadership lessons are still eminently relevant today as then.

How can a leader avoid being corrupted by the power?

The degree of power that a leader requires is determined by the goals that she must achieve. For example, the leader of a country requires different powers than the leader of a church.

Power is the possession of control, authority, and/or influence over others and this power is then used to achieve a goal. Some leaders, such as presidents, have all or parts of the three, while others, such as Mother Theresa, might have only one.

Power does not corrupt.

Corruption is the degree that someone’s action has veered from a moral value that a society, organization or community has set.

The only preventive medicine for corruption of power is a healthy respect for and a diversity of others (diversity).

Where should leaders must divide their time?

I think leaders have two “leadership continuum” scales that they must follow. Thinkers on the subject like McGreagor and Blake & Mouton demonstrate this idea as a vertical axis (concern for people) balanced against a second axis of “concern for task

By focusing on developing and maintaining a laser like focus on their goals a leader can create a vision. Then by developing great people (people scale) and giving them the means to accomplish your vision you have the necessary ingredients to achieve organization success.

In other words, good goal directed visions and by inspiring their people to work through change and challenges equals a successful organization.

What’s the worst fault a leader can have?

I would say there are two.

First is to fail to have and develop a diversity of people and team members as unanimity creates like-minded people throughout the organizations and leads to one-way thinking. Without a diverse team, you will never develop creative solutions to stay competitive.

The second, and I think the most important, is to lack moral courage. As a leader you have to be strong enough to do the hard but right work, know that the right decisions are not always popular and to be able to place your mission above being liked.

If so much material is written about leadership, why are there so few real leaders?

Who says there are so few leaders? I think the world is full of good people doing good work. Certainly a Dwight D Eisenhower comes along once in a generation, but WWII was won by millions of great leaders who carried out their Commander’s goals.

Too many people equate leaders with the power of authority, yet leadership is more about visioning and achieving goals through the efforts of others.

Organizations that are failing lack of leaders throughout their ranks.

Do you have to a superhero to be a good leader ?

No, leadership is like many other difficult skills—it takes skills and practice.

That is why it is important to develop leaders throughout your organization; although you can learn the knowledge and the skills, it takes practice to get it right.

Senior leaders should always be coaching and mentoring their people along the leadership continuum.

Is a military model of leadership applicable to any company or not-for-profit, as it based most on authority and discipline?

Researchers have shown that one highly effective model of leadership is demonstrated within the military. Many great military units approach motivation by following the “mission, values, and pride philosophy.”

They invest in their people by following practices:

  • Over-investing in cultivating the organization’s core value:

Don’t briefly introduce your employees to the company – assign your most experienced and talented managers to Intensely focus on your organization’s core values. And keep working on developing culture & values no stop!

  • Prepare every person to lead, including frontline supervisors:

Training every front line person to lead has a powerful effect on morale. Do NOT write followers off or give them superficial attention. You must embrace the notion that front line workers can lead.

  • Attending to the bottom half, not just the top half:

Find the time to attend to the poor and mediocre performers, even if it means personal sacrifice. It is cheaper and easier to rejuvenate under-performers than to replace them. Sergeants, despite their legendary toughness, refuse to give up on any recruit who does not give up on them selves.

  • Encouraging self-discipline as a way of building pride:

Demand that everyone act with honour, courage, and commitment. For example, Southwest Airlines turns its planes around in less than half the time that is needed by most competitors … not by fear of punishment, but by a desire to be the best.

Can an excess of leaders turn into a problem?

Every organization is unique; therefore it will require a different percentage of leaders. But every leader and supervisor must display some form of leadership, they cannot simply be bosses and expect the organization to become a great organization. For that matter, how can you have too much of a good thing; is there such a thing as a company having too much profit?

What is better for a company that does not have huge training budgets: build a team of leaders or concentrate on building a team of efficient managers?

Managers can get things done, but they have to be lead and have leadership abilities of their own. Otherwise, what will they get accomplished?

It takes leaders to have visions. Once you have your vision, it needs to be framed in general terms and communicated to your team.

Your team then develops objectives and ways & means to achieve the vision all are leadership tasks.

Can someone be a good leader, but not a good manager? Which is better for a company?

There are many managers who cannot lead. Just, as there are leaders who cannot manage.

Neither option is good for anyone.

Both will strip the company of valuable resources — a leader who can’t get things done or a manager who cannot lead her employees.

What is a measure of success for developing leaders?

I’m not so sure if there is such index?

Making a leader is development, not training and development can be extremely hard to measure.

For example, if you train someone to operate a forklift, you can then go to the job site to see if that person actually learned some new skills. But observing someone to see if they have gained some leadership skills is much more difficult.

Developing a leader is not accomplished in a two-week leadership course; they develop through trial & error practice.

There are indicators that show how much value organizations place on leadership skills: the Hay Group found that corporate cultures of the world’s most admired companies are alike in many ways, but also differ from those of an ‘average’ company.

Research reveals that the dominant values in the world’s most admired companies are teamwork, customer focus, innovation, fair treatment of employees and vision. All leadership skills!

Average companies have overriding values of making budgets, supporting the decisions of management, and minimizing risks.

The results? Great companies have leaders while managers run average companies!

Is it asking too much of a leader to keep people’s loyalty in a company that is downsizing?

Leadership is more about enabling people to do their best & become the best and that my friend develops loyalty.

Arguably organizations that have effective leaders throughout their organization will find themselves downsizing less often than those lacking leaders. That is because they will be performing the necessary steps to carry them on to the visions they have created.

If you have good leaders throughout the organization, you are going to find yourself doing the right things if it becomes cost-cutting time … by being honest and compassionate.

An emerging trend in the new economy is working at home and teams connected via the web. How can one be a leader without regular eye-to-eye contact?

Most leaders still go to the “office” regularly.

In fact, it is extremely important that they be seen around the organization and be seen by others—as they are the role models.

Secondly, don’t punish the honest because of a few cheaters. The majority of people who do work at home are some of the best led as they are being motivated both extrinsically and intrinsically by being well paid and being allowed to perform their job as they best see fit.

I would recommend having weekly or semi-weekly meetings to allow all the employees a chance to meet each other face-to-face, even if it is via videoconferencing.

And then deal with poor performers as the exception not the rule.