Observations on a Good Leader

We are going through a leadership change within our organization here in Italy. Leadership transition is always a challenge.  I have been through several organizational leadership transitions in my lifetime.  This one has actually been fairly easy.  I credit that to the fact that both the outgoing leader and the incoming leader are of high moral character.  It’s amazing how much good character will cover a multitude of mistakes and necessary learning.

This week the outgoing leader is leaving the country and heading back to the U.S. He will be sorely missed on several levels.  Truly he has been one of the best leaders I have had the privilege to serve under.  I have reflected for a few days now on the leadership qualities that he possesses-qualities that I think are essential to good leadership.  So I offer them to you for your thought and reflection.

1. Future oriented. This leader never allowed us to dwell on the past or get stuck in the present.  We were always talking about where we needed to go.  It wasn’t fluffy talk or pie in the sky-it was anchored in reality.  But it was with a sense that we are here for a reason and that our leadership as a team should actually take us somewhere that matters.  A friend recently shared with me his definition of leadership:  a person with an agenda for change and followers.  That is the kind of leader this guy is-he has an agenda for meaningful and compelling change-and it has compelled me to follow for the past five years.

2. People focused. This leader saw people as our most precious resource and he spent countless hours in conversations with people at every level of our organization.  Of course much of that time was spent with leaders at the lower levels of our organization-he is certainly a leader of leaders.  But I also saw him take time for the brand new people as well.  He realized that if the people became better then we had a fighting chance to see our vision realized.  Sometimes he offered a word of comfort.  Sometimes it was a word of strategy.  But you always felt like you had his whole attention and that you mattered.

3. High moral character. I have already mentioned how this leader has great moral character.  I have witnessed this in every area of his life.  I don’t mean that he is perfect-but that even in his imperfections he exhibits humility and courage. This character has a source-and it is assuredly his relationship with Jesus Christ. This character elicited great trust at every level of the organization.  It showed up in his willingness to listen and be challenged-and it showed up in his willingness to make the tough calls.  And it showed up in his availability to meet people at their point of need.

4. Dispenser of hope. This leader is a dispenser of hope wherever he goes.  I always leave him feeling better about myself and about the future.  He constantly points me to Christ as my reason for hope.  He desires that everyone around him experience a better tomorrow.  Hope is always future oriented-and this leader truly believes that tomorrow will be better than today.  That is motivating-especially in the mundane things of living out leadership day to day.

5. Always learning. This leader is a learner.  He reads, he listens, he inquires, he seeks out, he reflects-he tries.  He is not content with yesterday’s answers for today’s problems.  He pushes innovation along with an atmosphere of being free to fail.  He is committed to effective change-not just change for change sake.  He is committed to doing whatever it will take to accomplish our stated mission. That produces a fun and freeing environment.  It creates an environment that is measured according to our results criteria but filled with grace.  It pushes the rest of us to be learners too.

It would submit that these five observed qualities are pretty good ones.  Ones to be emulated.  Lead well!

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