What does it take to make a great leader? This can come from the world of politics, the world of business, within a nonprofit organization, in a greater societal movement, or within a more academic environment. What does it take?
Some people will say that great leaders should inspire those around them, lighting a fire under their butts and spurring them into action. Some people will say that great leaders command a certain presence the moment they enter a room, that they have this powerful aura around them that is practically indescribable. You hang on their every word, anxious to hear what they might say next. There’s something ethereal about them.
Or great leaders just might be rude, demanding and uncompromising. I recently came across a documentary by Max Joseph on YouTube that asked this very question and it got me thinking. If you want to be a leader in your industry — and make no mistake: blogging and Internet marketing are industries like any other — then do you have to be an unpleasant person.
The Power of Explosive Profits
You may be familiar with Hollywood director Michael Bay. He’s the guy who called the shots behind such movies as Armageddon, Transformers, Pearl Harbor, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Bad Boys. He’s known for big action, over-the-top visual spectacles… and a hot temper on set. It’s a fairly common occurrence, from what I’ve heard, for Michael Bay to yell at his cast and crew.
In short, he can be difficult to work with, but the movies he directs continue to be these huge Hollywood blockbusters and continue to break box office records again and again… even if the movies themselves may not yield all that much critical acclaim. He doesn’t care. He’s angrily yelling (and smiling) all the way to the bank.
He’s a “good leader” in that respect.
The Prowess of the Political Populist
I’m not going to comment on the political views and actions of United States President Donald Trump. I’ll leave that up to you to decide, but you can probably guess my opinions on the matter. What I can say is that he has undeniably tapped into something among his base of supporters and followers.
If we go back to what I said in the beginning, Trump has been able to inspire action among a certain demographic, igniting a fire within them to take certain actions. He has united them, even if they may not agree with other members of society.
Separate political ideology from the characteristic of being a “good leader” and you can see how the President fits the description. You can see a similar “rallying of the troops” behind a certain political vision among other world leaders, past and present. The political vision may be positive or it may be abhorrent, but it is nonetheless being championed by a charismatic “leader.”
There is a reason why people like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are able to lead their people, despite objections from the international community.
The Desire to Follow
Perhaps that is the greatest mark of what makes a great leader: unwavering, uncompromising vision.
A great leader is sometimes described as a visionary, specifically behind he has a very exact view of the future he wants to create. He knows what he wants and he cannot be convinced of otherwise. We saw this in everyone from Gandhi to Steve Jobs, both great leaders and, depending on who you ask, both potentially difficult to work with.
In this way, perhaps it takes a certain level of stubbornness or steadfastness in order to be a great leader. Someone who is indecisive, unclear, unspecific, and easily swayed cannot make a great leader, because people cannot rally behind a cause that is vague and constantly changing. People want a leader to lead with confidence.
So it’s not that great leaders have to be bad people; it’s that they need to be confident and have an intense clarity of vision.