What Makes a Good Leader?

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Political leaders cater to constituents, lobbyists, and policy makers. Church leaders work to gain the trust and confidence of their congregations. And successful business leaders must be able to motivate and inspire their employees. One of the challenges every leader faces is being able to identify with the people they lead. In business, managers are trained to not only lead and manage their subordinates but also to connect with them in ways that help bridge the gap that so often occurs in social hierarchies. But not every manager is able to do this. Understanding what personality styles and management styles enhance group identification and leadership success is imperative for developing successful training strategies. To get some insight into what makes a good leader, Russell E. Johnson of the Department of Management at Michigan State University recently led a study that looked at how different leaders identify with their coworkers.

Johnson evaluated 53 managers at three time periods. First, the managers were interviewed as they participated in a continuing education class. They were asked about their work history, average work hours, and other demographic particulars. The following week, the managers were instructed to report their leadership behaviors on a daily basis for 2 weeks. Finally, peers and subordinates of the managers were contacted via email and asked to report how effective they thought their leaders were.

The data were analyzed for group identity, individual identity, transformational behaviors, consideration, and abuse. At the end of 3 weeks, Johnson reviewed the data and found that the leaders with the highest levels of individual identity were the most self-serving and more likely to act in abusive ways when compared to leaders with higher levels of group identification. The findings revealed that the leaders who identified most with their subordinates were more considerate and empathetic than those with individual identities. Although it is important to consider the identity of the followers when measuring leadership success and effectiveness, Johnson believes the impact of leadership identity cannot be understated. He added, “The interplay between leadership and identity is likely broader than what is currently believed, and it is our hope that this study helps spark further research on these topics.”

Johnson, R. E., Venus, M., Lanaj, K., Mao, C., Chang, C.-H. (2012). Leader identity as an antecedent of the frequency and consistency of transformational, consideration, and abusive leadership behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029043

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  • marnie r

    July 5th, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    For me I have always thought of a good leader as someone who would rather hear me talk than to listen to themselves. Know what I mean? That is a person who really cares about what I am thinking more than they like listening to the sound of their own voice.

    Good leaders are hard to find in this day and time. There are far too many people in positions of power who are more interested in advancing their own causes than they are in helping me take care of mine.

    Forgive me for wanting someone to take up my cause, but it always feels a little nicer to have someone on your side who you know is concerned about your well being and has a desire to help everyone achieve the best life possible.

  • Zenia

    July 5th, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    What makes a good leader? Not the current administration in the White House now that’s for sure!

  • karen lanners

    July 5th, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    I think a good leader is a good teacher, on who can enrich other’s experiece by thier knowledge. That is and was my management and supervisory style. In order to be a good teacher you have to be willing to be a good learner, admit when you are wrong, and be willing to learn from those you supervise. You need to be open to change.

  • wyche m

    July 6th, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    A good leader is someone who thinks more of others than they do of themselves. A good leader is srticulate and communicative, keeps you up to date on the details even when the details are things that are often difficult for us to hear. A good leader exhibits strength even when it would be easier to be weak, kindness when it would be easier to be ruthless, and intelligence when the rest of the world is going insane. Wow, I really do wish that we had more people like that.

  • salz

    July 6th, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    you cannot be a good leader unless you are a good follower.heard this phrase long long ago and i completely agree with it.

    and if you are a follower then you will be able to better understand the needs and problems of those that you will lead later on! selfish behavior wherein your performance is judged based on your subordinates whom you are abusing and bullying is never a good thing!

  • Bradley

    July 8th, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    How about a good leader is someone who gives back to the community where they live? You can’t get much out of people unless you yourself set a good example. How can you ask them to be good employees if you are not willing to do the things possible to be a good and strong leader for them? People will fall in line with those who they consider capable and confident and a big part of that is being a giving individual.

  • Lars

    July 9th, 2012 at 4:14 AM

    I don’t think that a good leader necessarily has to be your best friend, but instead someone who is not afraid to have no friends. His manner suggests that he is fearless when it comes to taking control of a situation and can pretty much come with an answer or a solution on the fly. I like that about a person, and kind of think that I possess some of this in my personality too. And even though this person doesn’t care about winning the popularity contests, naturally he will because this is the kind of eprson that most will navigate to naturally.

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