Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Leader Is...

As I was driving my 4-year-old in to school the other day, she used the word leader. I don't recall exactly what we were originally talking about (probably Mr. Rogers), but I asked her what a leader is. Her answer?

"A leader is someone with good friendship."

I almost had to pull the car over before my brain exploded. I think it's just about the best definition of leadership I've ever heard, and it came from a 4 year old. Let's expand on it a bit.

Good friendship includes loving and caring for people as well as "tough love," honesty and integrity. It also means being well connected, in terms of networking and in terms of being aware of (and sensitive to) what's going on. It means following through, asking the next question (and the one after that). It means really wanting to know how your friends are doing.

It also means having people around you who care about how you're doing, who can give you honest feedback and who let you know when you're heading in a bad direction. Good friendship doesn't mean fraternization or cronyism (that'd be 'bad friendship'), and it doesn't necessarily mean you're friends with everyone. But I'm pretty sure good friendship is a key to good leadership.

Would you want to follow someone who does not have "good friendship?" I wouldn't. And in the end, I think that's the acid test for the quality of a leader - a person is a good leader if you would want to follow him or her. Ricardo Semler comes to mind. I've got zero interest in Semler's manufacturing industry, but I'd love to work for him. Same for Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin empire.

It's probably not enough to simply have good friendship. Skills, knowledge and some sort of competence is pretty important too. So are followers. But as definitions of leadership go, she sure came up with a great starting point.

1 comment:

Trevor Gay said...

Brilliant post Dan - these are two of my all time favoruties quotes - I used them both in my leadership dissertation when I did my MA Management (Healthcare)

“Strategies are Okayed in boardrooms that even a child would say are bound to fail. The problem is there is never a child in the Boardroom” (Victor Palmieri, Fortune, February 24 1992)

“What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult” (Sigmund Freud)