Good Leaders vs. Great Leaders

Leadership Guru John Maxwell is known to say “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I recently received a personal lesson on what his words actually mean.

One of the greatest influences in my professional life was a former boss named Roy. Under his tutelage I had expanded my knowledge on Lean and added 6 Sigma thinking to my skill set. I had worked under Roy for about 6 years; however, through a series of events, we hadn’t worked together for over 8 months. Out of the blue, he reached out and asked if I would consider coming back to work for him.

At this point, I was working for a great company, doing meaningful work, making a good salary, earning excellent benefits while commuting relatively close to home. What on Earth would make me want to change?

It took me a couple days of deep reflection before I agreed to interview. After the interview, as I reviewed my “Pros vs Cons” list, I kept going back to this one person. Like a bolt of lighting it became clear to me, besides being a mentor, he was a great leader.

I started thinking deeper on what distinguishes a “Good Leader” from a “Great Leader”. I know I’ve read dozens of books on this very topic, but this is the first time that I had taken the time and deeply reflected on what that means to me. Below is a summary of what I scratched out.

A Good Leader Will:

  • Challenge you;
  • Protect you from failure;
  • Set goals and road-maps;
  • Encourage you to continue to learn;
  • Share in success & Communicate failures.
A Great Leader Will:

  • Make you challenge yourself;
  • Expect you to experiment even if you fail;
  • Set goals and ask how you will get there;
  • Expect continual learning;
  • Share in success…Learn from failure.

Ultimately, I ended up taking the new position and I will once again be working for this leader. I know he will continue to make me a better change agent, a better leader, and a better person.

I was always told, “people don’t leave companies they leave people”. I think this is true to a certain extent, but I believe it’s a little too one-sided. I think that the flip side to that coin is “People don’t choose companies they choose people”.

What do you think?


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