Thought For the Day: On Organizational Leadership

Downtown Indianapolis -  General Anthony Wayne Leads the Charge

Five Characteristics That Define An Outstanding Leader:

There are more than five characteristics that define what makes an outstanding leader.  Of the many that do, some of the most valuable include continued growth throughout career and life; purpose and passion for that purpose; decisiveness and dedication coupled with persistence; transparency and desire for the best of all in any specific group accomplished through teamwork; and courageous humility tempered with a developed sense of humor about oneself and all the myriad of things that can go awry prior to success being had.  In contemporary times it might well be said that we are in transition in part between the “Leader-As-Hero” leadership style which is based on a more individualist approach to life and work to more of a “Level-5” leadership style which has been contrasted as being collectivist in its approach (Campion, 2019).  It has been characterized that when times are tough, depending on viewpoint, the public tends to gravitate toward the charismatic “Leader-As-Hero” be it Obama for the Left or Trump for those more conservative (Draft, 2017).   

           What is the Source of This Leader’s Authority:

          Authority is the agreement to follow a person’s vision and that power rests on respect that has been earned or will be earned.  A handful of leaders seem to be born.  Most, however, are made through careful cultivation and lessons along the way. While some authority comes from the label or title of a leader’s position, without the meaningful and significant acts that demonstrate that leader’s abilities including listening to and promoting the well-being of others, that leadership soon looses its unsubstantiated authority. It is the getting of things accomplished that matters far more than a title can ever bestow in matters of establishing authority.  In modern times, there is the additional requirement of being skillful in collaboration as part of the authority necessary to be a good and well thought of leader (Draft, 2017).  The case may well be made that this was a downfall for former President Trump.

          What Contextual Factors Affect This Person’s Leadership:

There are multiple slices in the cultural pie that are the contextual factors that drive which sort of leadership is best in a given set of circumstances and how each individual leader selects the leadership style(s) they believe to be most appropriate.  One of the principle factors that cannot be ignored is the influence derived from that individual’s innate personality.  Some may lead through charming charisma with a great deal of flexibility.  Others may choose to lead through more rigid sets of protocol.  Then there is the impact of belief systems which may lead a more democratic leader to emphasize teamwork while others may stress self-reliance.  Depending on the company or organization’s established ethics is another contextual influence that impacts how leadership manifests itself.  Employee diversity is yet another of the contextual factors that will impact leadership styles. Studies have shown that since the onset of the 21st Century the leadership paradigm has been forced to change due to the context that change and crisis are ongoing and require a new style of leadership to cope of with changes (Draft, 2017).   

          Leaders Illustrative of the “Leader-As-Hero”  and Level 5 Mindsets and How These Characteristically Differ:

          The “Leader-As Hero” leadership style relies on and requires demonstrated excellence.  The downside, however, is that despite any such excellence the authority that provides the power of leadership still requires earned respect.  Without this, there will be leadership concerns to overcome.  Moreover, being too much of a “hero” can undermine others on the team and disempower them. While leadership always requires a bit of a hero it can be counter-productive to rely on this leadership style.  It might be stated that the last greatest “Leader-As-Hero” recognized in contemporary media would be the late Steve Jobs. A more controversial example would be, depending on who is asked, former President Donald Trump. Regardless of political stripe, it may well be a lesson to be learned in the Trump Administration that there has been no clearer example that brow-beating not very effective with respect to leadership (Draft, 2017). 

          The Level-5 leadership style/mindset requires the paradoxical combination of humility coupled with professional will to get the job done, whatever the job may be established as.  Examples of this sort of leadership are found in Lincoln and Ghandi.  This sort of leadership is great at identifying the right persons for tasks needed accomplished; risk taking; equal comfort with data crunching and brutal truth as well as seemingly boundless optimism; flexibility in aligning and then re-aligning themselves while working toward their goals; and taking a disciplined approach to work-life.   The text refers to the current Pope Francis as an example of this.  That would seem controversial to some. 


Campion, L. L., & Wang, C. X. (2019). Collectivism and Individualism: the Differentiation of Leadership. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning63(3), 353–356.

Daft, R (2017) The Leadership Experience (7th Edition)!/4/4@0:0

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About alohapromisesforever

Writer, poet, musician, surfer, father of two princesses.
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