What makes a great leader
What makes a great leader?

Is it an open door policy, a good listener, or a willingness to perform tasks at all levels of the business? Perhaps these are favorable qualities of a leader, but there are more. For an expert opinion, John Mattone reached out to Wally Bock, Owner of Three Star Leadership.

What makes a leader great?

  1. Great leaders set the course for their teams and constantly communicate with them about it.
  2. Great leaders understand that they have two jobs. They must accomplish their mission through their team, and they must also help their team members succeed.
  3. Great leaders understand that they have to do today’s job well, but they also have to prepare their team for tomorrow’s job.
  4. Great leaders do all of the everyday things that support success. They touch base a lot. They confront problems and deal with them quickly. They develop sources of information that aren’t on the team. They try new ideas. They get the routine things done routinely.

When you say, “They develop sources of information that aren’t on the team,” what do you mean by that?

Every leader receives information from team members in the form of reports and recommendations. That means it’s all filtered before it gets to you. The higher you get in the organization, the more filtering happens along the way. There are three dangers baked into this process.

  1. People generally view information through the lens of their own self-interest and pass it along to the next person that way.
  2. The people on your team share a common outlook which can turn into groupthink if there’s no way to challenge assumptions or data.
  3. Limiting yourself to the information and recommendations that come from inside your team means that you are likely missing other important information.

You have to develop your own sources of information. Start by being widely read. Also, talk to other businesspeople and get their ideas about what’s going on in the world beyond your corporate walls. Finally, get out of your office and wander around a bit. Regular visits to customers and the plant floor will provide you with plenty of useful insights.

What behaviors hurt the effectiveness of a leader?

There are a lot of little things that can keep a team from performing at a top level. But there is one huge behavior that can destroy the team’s effectiveness, and that’s when the boss puts his or herself ahead of the team.

Why is that?

Putting yourself first tells your team that no matter what you say, the team is not the most important thing. It sends the message that self-interest is more important than a commitment to the team’s success. That’s why Intel president Andy Grove used to say that he wanted leaders with “the right kind of ambition.” He wanted leaders who were ambitious for team success because he knew that when leaders start putting themselves first, the team disintegrates.

Why do you refer to leadership as an apprentice trade?

In the classic apprentice system, the apprentice only learns some from studying. Mostly, the apprentice learns on the job and from more experienced practitioners. That’s how leaders learn to lead. They learn most of it on the job and they learn from mentors, role models, and peers.

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