What is a Great Leader?
“A leader is best
when people barely know he exists.
Of a good leader, who talks little,
when his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
they will say, “We did this ourselves.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
When a leader is a great leader, the people hardly know he exists. Although he may have started the work, he is delighted that others have joined him to carry it forward. As the project develops he becomes more and more invisible, because he has trained many others to be able to lead themselves. Because there are so many self leaders the work gets done easily and effortlessly, with a minimum of input from the great leader.
The great leader acts as a focal point for his team's endeavors. He holds the vision for where the team need and want to go - a vision to which they feel they belong. By holding this vision in a steady and unswerving manner, with a total knowing that it will come about, those on his team are imbued with confidence and lifted in their aspiration and commitment to bring it about.
Within the vision, he assists those team members closest to him create goals and then holds them accountable for delivering on those goals. Once the team's goals are clear and agreed the great leader stays interested and connected to the team members work, supporting them and offering an almost total flexibility in how these goals can be achieved.
A great leader will only hold a vision that is beneficial and which is a reflection of values he holds dear. He is continually reminding the team of those values and empowers them to have everything they create be inspired by, and a reflection of, the values he holds.
A great leader is very careful about who he appoints to his team. He is quick to change appointments early on to make sure everyone on his team is aligned with his vision and purpose.
Because of this a great leader personally appoints the people to his team. When doing so he is careful to discern, from the people he attracts, those who have a keen interest in advancing their personal development as well as having appropriate technical or managerial skills.
A great leader is very interested in listening to those people he has appointed. He listens with a kind of total empathy that allows him to enter into the other person's world. He listens for what is said, how it is said and what is not said. Other people then feel totally understood, perhaps for the first time. The great leader then uses this understanding to sense and call out the greatness in the other team members, by asking powerful questions and by giving voice to what these other team members need to become.
After making these appointments, a great leader takes a personal interest in each person he has appointed, asking about their families and about their own hopes and dreams. The great leader then makes it his business to assist the person to support his family at all times and to advance in the direction of their own life purpose.
A great leader consciously practices an approach that uses a minimum of effort in all he says and in all he does. He knows that the less he does the more the others will shine. The great leader then gives credit to his team for all they are achieving.
A great leader then takes personal responsibility for ensuring that all his team members have the high quality resources they need to achieve their goals, in the form of equipment, office space and finance.
A great leader makes sure that when his team reach important milestones there is a great celebration. He gathers his team together and inspires them with the importance of their vision and mission and credits them for the team's successes. A great leader knows that people do not only work for money but to have fun, companionship and to belong to a community of people all moving to fulfill the same vision.
Finally a great leader is, despite his exceptional talents, very ordinary. When you visit his organization you might have trouble knowing who he is. He is in no way obtrusive, because he is more interested in serving than demanding, in listening than telling, and in values than profit at any price.