There are good leaders and there are bad leaders.
(Maybe the bad leaders aren’t actually leaders at all).
And, of all the tests of leadership, the one that really matters is this: results. Did the group, team, army, organization successfully accomplish what it set out to do? If yes, then in some sense, it was well led. If not, then it was not well led. Because, the mark of successful leadership is this – results!
But, though that may be a clear test, there is no one path to get there, is there? There are great leaders, “servant” leaders, who successfully lead to the results desired. And there are true servant leaders who love their people/employees/team, but the results are not there. Maybe more good person that good leader…
As I continue to read many books that help me think about leadership, I have arrived at three “categories” of leaders, and I think we could find examples of successful leaders in all three of these categories.
Category #1 – Leaders out for their own reputation and/or financial success. You know the kind! They are a little full of themselves (or, maybe, more than a little!), with something of a huge ego. But, they get things done. They accomplish their goals. They get results! They may not be well-liked; they may be resented even. But the results are there. (No, I won’t name anyone that comes to mind in this category, but we all know some names to put in this slot).
Category #2 – Leaders who are obsessive about doing the very best for their employees. I always think first of Herb Kelleher, the legendary CEO of Southwest Airlines. His people loved him, and why not? — he loved his people. And his track record of success was breathtaking!
Category #3 – Leaders who are obsessive about doing the very best for their customers – their end users. Of all the examples, one stands above all others – Steve Jobs. He believed in providing insanely great products for his customers. And he didn’t care much for any employee who would stand in his way, or fail to do their very best for the customer!
There are examples of “good, nice people” in all three categories, and yes, there are examples of real jerks in all three categories.
But, in terms of focus, I think it is pretty tough for a leader to care about all three of these equally — or even two of the three.
In each of these, the good leader seems to be crystal clear about what he/she is after. And the result of such obsessive focus is successful attainment of the results desired.
Now that is leadership!