What is a Leader?

‘Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right,’ according to Professor Warren G. Bennis.

‘Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it,’ according to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

I have always been fascinated with Leaders and the concept of Leadership.  Former President John F. Kennedy said, ‘My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ This historic statement resulted in a generation devoting themselves to public and humanitarian service.

Winston Churchill lead embattled Britain with the power of his oratory and clear eyed vision of their ultimate success…in the darkest days of World War II.

Winston Churchill said, ‘Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.’  ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.’  ‘If you are going through hell, keep going.’

Empathy has a role to play in leadership.  Can you place yourself in another person’s shoes?  Can you relate to how another is reacting or feeling?  When someone is hurting…do you feel their pain?

For many years I was a manager of a large housekeeping organization.  I found one of the statements uttered by the popular motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, to be relevant in all my leadership efforts, ‘People do not really care how much you know, until they know how much your care…about them.’

We all are looking for a leader who has our back.  Someone who has our best interest at heart.  A person who cares about our success and our advancement.  A leader who is fair with all and who endeavors to treat others like they would like to be treated.

Criticism comes with being a leader.  This is something that our new President appears to be having some difficulty with.  No leader likes criticism and it is best to ignore it, accept for instructive purposes.  Certainly a leader must not personalize criticism.

A true leader understands that they are a member of the group that they are attempting to lead.  They are not more intelligent…gifted…or somehow endowed with a special magical sprinkling of dust from heaven that is kept in storage… just for people like them.

Humility is important and vital to the success of a leader.

Nothing is more humbling than being a manager, an administrator, a leader of a group of honest hard working people…that are looking to you for guidance.

All of us seek to be our best.  We desire to maximize our skills and be recognized for our efforts.  A leader understands how to make these very human desires happen.


Leaders often must make difficult decisions.  These decisions should be made after serious consideration regarding the impact of the them and the motivation for them.

A leader is inclusive.  Opportunity is for everyone.  During my thirty-two year career at Southern Illinois University our department went from being a primarily caucasian male organization to being a ‘house for all people,’ according to my former friend and Chancellor Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger.  This included many disabled persons…who were some of our finest staff.


6 responses

  1. Great article. Sadly these days alot of good leaders and managers are “extinct” or few and far between. Sadly for employees, they do not get the much needed care as they are simply digits or a cost factor. So, your article is a timely reminder. Thanks for the share😊

    1. Thank you my friend. Sadly, I have encountered more poor leaders and managers than good ones.

      1. We are in the same boat my friend.

  2. In a society of ME and status, it will be harder to find leaders who have the interests of the people and country at heart. It is very sad place that we are right now, and I don’t see it getting any better.

    1. I think we have to each do what we can…to help those around us. Also, to encourage thoughtful and considerate people to run for political office, especially at the local level. 🌞

      1. You really hit the nail on the head there. I think this has been a wake up call for a lot of people. I am glad of that. People have to realize that helping each other is very rewarding, and now we need to do it more than ever.

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