What Makes a Great Leader?

Rieva Lesonsky shares her thoughts on what it takes to be a great leader.

MentorWhat makes a great leader? There are lots of theories. You need to guide and motivate, inspire and encourage, all while running your business. Sound exhausting? It can be, if you don’t have the “right” attitude. Entrepreneur and marketing guru Seth Godin believes (and I agree) that being a manager and being a leader are two completely different animals. Godin says, “Managers try to get people to do what they did yesterday but a little faster, and a little cheaper with a few less defects.” 

I’ve been both a manager and a leader, and I have to admit leading comes more naturally to me than managing. Here are the leadership principles that work for me. 

Say no to “yes men.” Don’t surround yourself with people who always agree with you. What’s the point? You might as well make decisions in a vacuum. Why bother to put together a staff of intelligent, talented people if you’re not going to listen to them? Enjoy the debate, and listen to all sides and opinions. 

Get to know your team. You can’t be a good leader if you don’t know what makes your staff tick. You don’t have to get too personal, but by understanding the issues that may affect each person’s job performance, you’ll be better able to motivate and lead them. 

Teach your employees how to fly and then stand back. I like to give a person as much information as I can about a project, and then let them figure out how to get the job done. If they start moving in the wrong direction, of course you should step in, but letting employees figure out what works and what doesn’t is not only more fun for them, but teaches them valuable lessons. 

Support and encourage. Growing up, my family was very supportive, and I try to bring that to my personal and professional relationships. My team always knows we have each other’s backs--no matter what. 

Have a question about leadership? Connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today!

About the Author

Rieva Lesonsky HeadshotBizSuccessTips Editor Rieva Lesonsky is founder and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company. A nationally recognized small business expert, Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs. Read more of her insights at SmallBizDaily.com.