Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What Makes a Good Leader?

by Annette Estes

One of the best ways to begin improving your leadership style is to emulate successful leaders. So, I asked a number of executive and community leaders I know to give me their definition of leadership and what they think are the qualities in a good leader.

There were so many responses, I couldn’t fit them all into one article. Here’s the first in a series of three articles on leadership qualities.

Bill Bonnstetter, Founder of Target Training International in Scottsdale, Arizona, is brief and to the point. Bonnstetter says, “Great leaders have mastered these personal skills: Goal Orientation, the Art of Influence, Self-Management, Interpersonal Skills, and Personal Accountability.”

Mike Etheridge, COO of Brenner Oil Company in Holland, Michigan, believes “Great leaders are born. If one is to be a good leader, focus, goals and the successful accomplishment of those goals needs to be added to the recipe. Great leaders have a sense of knowing what to do when that chapter of the ‘How To’ book has not been written yet. So many great leaders get on the other side of a crisis or project and ask, ‘Where did that come from?’ It is this special ability along with the persistence, focus, motivation, example and loving commitment, coupled with the assistance of associates that have grown from good to great in their respective positions, that will in the judgment of history, make a great leader.”

When he was alive, the late James D. Cockman, former Chairman of Sara Lee Foods Food Services Division, told me that great leadership involves, “Compassion, caring, trust. Integrity is the foundation. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you CARE.”

Larry Bonorato, General Manager of Saturn of Greenville writes, “A leader must give totally honest feedback to the individuals on his/her team as soon as possible. Each team member must know exactly where they stand, what is expected of them, and what they must do to meet the expectations of the leader. The leaders should seek out and get input from the individual team members. However, the leader makes the decision based on what is best for the team. A leader cannot have a ‘bad day.’ If the leader is depressed, he/she should stay home. The speed of the leader is the speed of the team.”

Gil Gerretsen, President and Head Coach of BizTrek Intl., Inc. writes, “Those who are truly successful exhibit two important characteristics which puts them in rare company. First, they must carry a ‘command presence.’ They exude a certain panache that makes it clear they are in charge and are comfortable being in that role. This cannot be faked. Second, they have a mental time horizon beyond today, this week or even next month. In the military, the difference between a private and a general is often their time horizon. A general is thinking and planning for things years down the road while a private mainly thinks about today and then the next paycheck.”

Gary Ault, Publisher of the Greenville Magazine and South Carolina Magazine says, “One common thread each of our Nelson Mullins Business Person of the year honorees have always had is their own ‘guiding principle’ by which they live. Leadership is all about values, attitude, commitment, enthusiasm, motivation, vision, and teamwork. Leadership is also about self-responsibility. Never point at others to blame for things that happen to you, look only inwardly for positive action and results. Always take responsibility in your business and private lives.”

Elizabeth Belenchia, President of Carroll Properties Corporation in Spartanburg believes, “A good leader is empathetic, poised with a vision, delegates unique requirement to those impassioned to complete their part of the mission (with minimal supervision). Leading requires knowing the strengths of the leader and each team member. Leadership brings out the best in the entire team. It creates a harmonized group.”

An excellent way to determine the characteristics of your leadership style is to develop your own personal leadership style inventory. Do a DISC assessment that defines your behavioral style and a personal values assessment that shows your attitude toward leadership and what motivates you.

Then have those you manage do the same assessments. If you’re one of your company’s managers responsible for motivating their employees, these tools will have people pointing at you when someone wants to know what makes a good leader.

What better way to determine the qualities of a good leader than by asking successful leaders to give their definition of leadership? Here are several responses in the first of three articles on leadership.

You can get a free leadership skills assessment by going to and clicking in the upper right corner. Annette Estes is a Certified Professional Behavioral and Values Analyst and coach who can help you develop your executive leadership skills. An excellent resource for managers is Annette’s ebook, Why Can’t You See it MY Way? Resolving Values Conflicts at Work and Home, which you can order at Contact her at or call The Estes Group at 864-244-1156.

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