History is full of leaders who were effective: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but there was also Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. They were all masterful in accomplishing their goals, but that is not enough. Effective leaders are not necessarily good leaders.
While leadership is often defined as moving a group toward attaining goals, simply reaching some outcome makes you an effective leader, not a good leader.
Here is what distinguishes a “good” leader from an effective one. Good leaders:
Do the Right Things vs. Simply Getting Things Done. This is a variation on an old quote often attributed to Peter Drucker or Warren Bennis (both have claimed that they didn’t coin it). It sets the stage for this distinction because it means that good leaders think about the purpose. Does the goal of the group, organization, or nation create some lasting value?
Are “Responsible” Leaders. By this, I mean “ethical” leaders (or whatever word you might prefer). They do not break or fudge rules. They treat people fairly. They don’t lie, cheat, or steal to get ahead.
Limit Collateral Damage. A good leader does not achieve outcomes and leave followers exhausted, damaged, or demoralized. Likewise, a good leader doesn’t devastate the environment, waste precious resources, or cause irreparable harm to make some goal.
Develop Followers. A good leader can be distinguished from an effective one because followers of good leaders become better themselves. Good leaders build the skills and talents of their workforce, and help followers to develop good leadership qualities themselves. [See work on transformational leaders.]
Leave the Team and the Organization Better Off Than They Found It. This is about sustainability. Good leaders make everyone stronger and better. They plan ahead when it comes to leadership succession. Good leaders want the positive trajectory to continue even after they leave, and hope that the future organization is even brighter than the situation that they helped create.
So, are you, or your boss, merely effective, or a truly good leader? In today’s world being an effective leader, is not enough.
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