The Lighthouse

When you think of a leader, what (or who) comes to mind?
What are traditional ideas associated with leadership?

I recently attended a leadership conference held at my university. While some of the session topics were not really to my taste and kind of already made known to me, I was grateful for the experience.

I chose to go to two sessions: the first focused on negotiations and bargaining, while the second one was about tribal leadership. There was also a keynote speaker after the two sessions.

Before developing a better relationship with myself, I used to believe that only certain people (read: extroverted) could be leaders. “Leaders are born, not made” was a familiar phrase that, unfortunately, did not apply to me.

However, my past few years being exposed to a liberal arts higher education and all the experiences that come along with it have made me realize otherwise.
I personally believe that yes, some people are born natural leaders. They emerge from the womb with their own personal brand of charisma and a knack for bringing out the best in a group of people.
Does this mean that they are the only type of leader?
For the longest time, I thought the answer to this question was an affirmative.

But it’s not.

I believe there’s a plethora of different leadership styles – one for the different kinds of people who find themselves in leadership roles! Regardless of all the different styles, here are a few things I personally believe all great leaders should strive for. This list also serves as a reminder of all the things I hope to develop and nurture in the leadership process.

Great Leaders:

  1. identify their groups strengths and weaknesses and work with them
  2. understand that leadership is a process and not a position
  3. do not always have all the answers (but will do their very best to find them/direct people to the right resources)
  4. use inclusive language instead of directive (i.e. “you” vs. “we” – a team effort!)
  5. actively listen
  6. are empathetic
  7. encourage people to work with their strengths and build on their weaknesses
  8. know the difference between equality and equity
  9. realize that things don’t always go according to plan
  10. inspire others to be great leaders too
  11. aren’t always extroverts

The list goes on! This is merely a small sample of the MANY qualities that make a good leader, à mon avis. Some things are more important for me to remember than others (I’m looking at you, #11), but this is only due to personal insecurities and shortcomings.

Everyone has their own idea as to what defines a great leader, and the role of a leader is dynamic – so no list of responsibilities is ever constant. However, some qualities are timeless and applicable to the many opportunities that may present themselves to people in leadership roles.

Now that you’ve gotten an inkling of what I personally think of great leadership, take some time to reflect on what YOU think makes a great leader. Of all the people you know, who do you think is a great leader and why? What traits do you most admire about great leaders? Let me know in the comments what you think!

“Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships.”
~Charles Simic



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