Tribute to great leaders


This is the fourth of our Friday Tributes.  Previously, we have paid tribute to friends, Mothers, and our plant-based employees.  Today, we highlight attributes of great leaders and thank those that are currently or have in the past contributed to our careers.

Everyone has an opinion as to what constitutes a great leader.  Some talk about the results they attain.  Others talk about how they achieve these results.  Still others talk about what they say or how they say it.  Below are a few of the key attributes of great leaders that I have observed over the course of my 38 years in industry:

  1. Great leaders have a strong sense of service to others – Many believe that being a leader means others serve you.  The opposite is actually the true.  When you are put into a leadership position, it becomes imperative that you serve those you direct.  When you serve others, you promote greater collaboration and participation.  When you demonstrate that you will serve others, they become motivated to ensure the success of the team.  Leaders that serve others, create teams that serve each other.
  2. Others willingly follow great leaders – Great leaders have great followers.  Everyone wants to work with and for a great leader.  When you know that you will be treated with respect, be motivated, and that your contributions are valued, you naturally want to follow such an individual.
  3. Great leaders are trusted – A great leader has credibility… has integrity… is trusted by others.  A great leader is known as one that will always do the right thing in the right way.
  4. Great leaders ensure that everyone knows the objective and gets everyone involved – There is never ambiguity around the mission (or goal or objective) when led by a great leader.  Being a great leader means you rally the team around a common target.  And, a great leader encourages the participation of all team members.  No one sits on the sideline when influenced by a great leader.
  5. A great leader always treats others with respect – Being respected is critical for an individual to be “all in.”  A great leader treats others the way he/she would want to be treated in every circumstance.
  6. Great leaders make those around them better – A great leader makes you a better person, a better teammate, and a better performer.  A great leader derives more from the team than could typically be expected by an average or good leaders.
  7. A great leader always give credit to those that do the work – A great leader will never take the credit for the good work of the team.  Ensuring that others receive the appropriate recognition inspires higher enthusiasm and effort from team members.
  8. Great leaders encourage others to do more than they thought possible – A great leader inspires us to achieve more than we would have otherwise.  A good leader gets good performance from team members.  But, a great leader inspires world-class performance.
  9. A great leader rarely talks about their own contributions – When you speak to a great leader, you walk away learning more about yourself than you learn from the leader.
  10. Everyone wants to work with or for a great leader – When you encounter that once-a-decade great leader, you naturally want to work with or for that individual.  Conversely, no one wants to work with or for a leader that is uninspiring, steals credit, or that cannot be trusted.
  11. You tend to smile when you think of great leaders from your past – Enough said!  I quickly and easily smile thinking of those great leaders of my past.  Why do you think that is so?
  12. A great leader is genuine, transparent and not prone to “spin” news to you – A great leader freely exhibits a vulnerability or “real” persona that simply makes you want to follow that kind of person.  You can depend on a great leader to give you the truth, all the time.
  13. Great leaders produce more great leaders – One of the sure indicators of a great leader is to count the great leaders they have influenced.  You cannot consider yourself a great leader if you have never produced another.
  14. A great leader will take a chance on you and give you the opportunity to stretch and grow – Most successful leaders can look back to the day that someone gave them a chance.  Perhaps, that chance was an unreasonable risk, given your experience at the time.  A great leader will go out on a limb to support a capable individual.  And, a great leader knows that people sometimes make mistakes.  When they do, such a leader uses it as a teaching moment, not one to degrade another.
  15. Great leaders have high expectations, inspire hard work, but make the workplace fun – It is often said of Vince Lombardi, Hall-of-Fame Coach of the Green Bay Packers football team, “He was tough, but his players would run through a brick wall for him, if he asked them to.”  Great leaders have high expectations.  And, they exhibit a sense of humor that makes others comfortable and the time around each other enjoyable.
  16. A great leader genuinely is interested in your career and willingly teaches those willing to learn – A great leader willingly passes along his/her own best practices.  They understand that for you to grow, they must take a personal interest and actively participate in your own learning.
  17. A great leader respects you, your time, and a balanced life – A great leader will not waste your time or your effort and believes you contribute more when your life and work are in proper balance.  A great leader respects your time off work and understands that “first things come first.”
  18. Great leaders will never expect individuals to do something they would not personally do – Great leaders lead by example.  They will never ask more of you than they are willing to give.  Often, a great leader to demonstrate early this concept by jumping in and doing the job no one else wants to do.  When this happens, the team members know that his/her walk is genuine.
  19. A great leader always walks the talk – A great leader does what he/she will say.  They listen well and their actions align with their spoken philosophy.
  20. Great leaders get great results due to the effort of others – Great results are usually the output of great leaders.  They understand what creates value and instill that in teammates.

When you think of a great leader from your past, who comes to mind?  Have you thanked that individual for advancing your own career or for showing you what it takes to be a great leader yourself?  Have you molded your own style to match what you saw in him/her?  Are you a better person for having worked with this great leader?

I can think of very good leaders in each of the seven companies for whom I have worked.  But, the number of great leaders is small in my experience.  A great leader may only come along every decade or so in your career.  So, when you encounter one of these rare individuals, cherish the time and learn everything you can from them.  Life is better because you encounter them.  They make your work more fulfilling, your contributions more valuable, and your life more complete.  In my 38 years in industry, the number of great leaders I have experienced is probably less than ten.  Certainly, I have worked with dozens or hundreds of good leaders, but great leaders come rarely and I have learned much from each of them.

Forward this tribute to a leader in your past that made a significant impact on you.  Tell them why you sent it and thank them for making a difference to you.  It will make their day.  And, to all the rest of us, let’s continue striving to be better leaders.  Let’s work to make a difference to our teammates.  The 20 attributes of great leaders highlighted above can serve as a great checklist as you refine and sharpen your own skills.

Thanks to each of you for make life better for all of us.  Have an awesome day!  It truly could be one of our best yet!



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