What is a Good Leader?


What is a good leader? Michael Scott, the former main character in NBC’s hit sitcom The Office, has an intertesting take.

Unfortunately, Michael’s definition rings true. Leadership is usually defined in terms of a person’s status in an organization. If a person has a title, he or she must have the leadership skills. Right? Wrong.

The truth is, people typically advance in organizations by pleasing their bosses with displays of loyalty and technical knowledge. Performance appraisals reflect how much supervisors like their subordinates. Consequently, designated high performers are often skilled at office politics rather than leadership.

Human evolution suggests an alternative definition of leadership. During 2 million years of pre-history, humans lived in egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies, and there was constant warfare between them. Leadership probably evolved as a mechanism that allowed normally selfish individuals to pull together for a common purpose—to compete with neighboring groups to defend territory and resources.

Therefore, leadership should be defined as the ability to build and maintain a team that can outperform the competition. Leadership is a resource for the group, not a source of privilege for incumbents; leadership should be defined and evaluated in terms of the performance of the team, which depends on how the subordinates perceive the leader.

To learn more about what makes a good leader, check out our complimentary e-book, The Hogan Leadership Model.