What makes a good leader?

In a recent Business Tune-Up class, my students were discussing the attributes of a good leader. They identified the most common traits, but didn’t really touch on what a good leader actually does. So I weighed in with my definition of a good leader, which is actually very simple. A good leader sets the agenda and then holds people accountable for accomplishing that agenda.

As I told my students, this practical definition translates the jargon found in many leadership books into something that a person can incorporate into a business. The leader of a business, such as the CEO leads that organization by setting the agenda. Then the stakeholders (such as employees, customers, vendors, owners, shareholders) follow by carrying out that agenda. Once a CEO has buy-in from stakeholders, which many times is the hardest part of the process, it’s the CEO’s job to do whatever it takes to make sure the whole organization achieves the desired end result.

Think of the agenda as a project that needs to be managed. Decide what needs to be done, find the right people to do it, and then hold those people accountable for completing the project and getting a good result.

–Barney Cohen

President, Business 360 Northwest


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