What Makes a Good Leader?
The leadership qualities that make a good leader fall into two broad but overlapping categories:
- Leadership qualities that depend on the context. Different situations require the leader to exhibit different qualities.
- Some leadership qualities are generic. Leaders need to exhibit these traits in most situations.
These are not hard-and-fast distinctions, but two ends of a spectrum that can depend on your perspective.
For example, as we shall see shortly, honesty is an important generic leadership quality. However, in the first gulf war, General Norman Schwarzkopf needed to be dishonest in order to secure victory over Saddam Hussein's forces. He adopted a strategy (similar to that of General Eisenhower on D-Day) of kidding the enemy into believing the allied attack would take place at a different place. This deceit contributed to Eisenhower and Schwarzkopf being seen by many as great military leaders.
Over the next few pages, we will look in more depth at what makes a good leader, and the relationship between generic qualities and context.
Next page: Positive Leadership Traits