Three Characteristics of a Good Leader.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent or the CEO of a major corporation, if you expect respect and hope to have a happy and productive team there are three leadership characteristics you must demonstrate.

1.  Good leaders clearly communicate expectations.
Let your team, family, or students know what you expect. There is a saying that expresses the frustration of many team members who follow a leader that is vague on what he or she expects.  The saying is this:  “I took a shot in the dark.”  Measurable goals and a comprehensive strategy to achieve them must be in sight at all times.

No one wants to take a shot in the dark.  There is nothing more demoralizing than not knowing what the expectations are.  Busy work without an objective or measure of progress demotivates.  A leader who keeps shouting fire, fire, fire, but never presents a clear target to aim at, can eventually expect to have the shots turned on him.

Oh wait. There is one thing that is more demoralizing than not knowing expectations.  It is a leader that keeps moving the target and doesn’t let anybody know.
2.  Good leaders keep the target stationary.  
Hopefully the core values and ultimate goal of a family or team will remain constant.  But as a leader there will be times when the strategy to achieve that goal has to change.  Good leaders keep the entire team aware of any target that is moved.

You can change you mind as long as you don’t expect your team to read your mind. 

Let your team know that what rules have changed.  Show them the location of the new target with plenty of time for them to adjust their aim.  Keep the bulls eye in plain sight.

3.  Good leaders listen to the voices of those they lead.  

They make an effort to respond to those voices. A leader that acknowledges the needs of a team and then ignores those needs destroys moral.  A leader that acknowledges the needs of a team and confesses that she will not be able to respond to all those needs will be respected.

If you are my leader, I will take a bullet for you if you do everything in your power to address my concerns, even if you can’t meet them all.  If I believe in your integrity and am invested in the outcome, I will regroup and find a way to get it done.

I have been a good leader and I have led poorly. 

I have worked tirelessly for good leaders and labored under poor leadership. 

I love following good leaders.  I want to be a good leader.  I hope my team and my family will read this post and will help me take the best steps to keep us excited about the target and aiming in the right direction.

What kind of leaders have you had?  How did their leadership affect how you felt about your work?


  1. This hits home for me. After being at the same job for 11 years and then sadly losing it to the “economic recession” I saw a parade of leaders in and out of our company. The most successful ones were the leaders who were upfront and honest and went to bat for our team. The ones who didnt stick around long were out for their own glory. I took lessons from both these leaders and “go to the mat” for my team when they feel strongly and passionate about something.

  2. Over 50 years of working for various “types” of leaders, mostly good ones, the last one was more than a doozy. He was abusive and used to threaten me with a bull-whip and often stated that I was an inefficient, weak, worthless waste who would never amount to anything, and if I ever told anyone about those “conversations” he would commit me to his secure care ward (at the psychiatric center where we worked). I became terrified of him but finally after 4 years, I resigned, and spent the next 10 years in a depression–no meds, no counseling…but one day God simply healed me! Today I fix my eyes, not on those things that can be seen, but on the Unseen Eternal: JESUS, merciful JESUS who loves all of us–even me. From that season of my life, the LORD gave me this poem:


    Dear JESUS,
    This small portion of persecution
    That I suffer at another’s hands,
    Is nothing compared to what You had to bear
    For all of the sins of all man.
    May I remember and rejoice in the cross
    That You have called me to bear;
    May I remember and rejoice in the suffering
    And realize how small is my share.

    For it’s easy to smile when things are okay,
    But so much harder when they go astray;
    Yet You say, this too shall pass
    For heartaches and trials won’t always last.
    A better day is coming, soon I know —
    You will return for Your very own;
    When I hear the trumpet sound,
    You’ll be here to take me Home.

    There I will dwell eternally,
    No more abuse or sin or pain;
    The Lamb of God will be there:
    King JESUS who was slain.
    Redemption’s Story will be complete;
    Lord, You died for even me;
    I will praise Your Name forevermore —
    The Christ of Calvary.

    Glory Hallelujah! I will shout and dance and sing!
    Glory Hallelujah! Your praises will ever ring;
    For then, praise God, forever, throughout all Eternity,
    Oh, then, praise God forever, I will be forever free!

  3. I’m currently doing some contract work for someone who leads poorly. He’s moody and distant. When he walks in a “weather report” goes out so everyone knows his mood. His assistant made a, rare, mistake on his calendar. This man has taken away her access to it, has not spoken to her in over a week and she is not allowed to speak to him. He doesn’t even want her to make eye contact with him. I’d call it a hostile work environment. He leads like a dictator. Communication is usually one way, from him. He has been at this company for years and holds very high position. Even the CEO who is new seems intimidated by him. This man does not have the respect of his employees and I’m willing to bet they are not giving their best. With over 33 years of work experience under my belt, I have never seen anyone lead so poorly. Such a sad and unnecessary

  4. I consider myself a leader, but I also enjoy just being a team player at times and don’t mind taking a backseat while someone else takes the leadership role. Anyways, I have a really hard time with step #1. Even as a public school teacher, I would get frustrated when the kids didn’t do something that I wanted them to do only to realize that I forgot to tell them the objective or how to reach the objective:( Through the years I’ve gotten better, but it’s not easy!

    1. Whitney, I know what you mean!
      This is probably my biggest downfall as well. My wife and son always tell me I am never clear enough on what I am asking or communicating. It makes me wonder how I am or perceived at work as a leader. Something I too continue to try an improve upon.

  5. My Dad was a pastor for 13 years and worship leader for most of that. He always told me that “The only way to learn how to be a leader is to learn how to be a follower.” That advice taught me to slow down and listen to the rules before jumping ahead and making my own. Now I know what God (and Dad) expects of me, and I want to do my best to show that to other people, whether I’m leading or not 🙂

  6. Great post, Ken. It’s fun working for great, straight-shooting, honest leaders. When you have the right kind of leader, the difficulty of the work doesn’t matter. On the contrary, bad leaders can make the easiest tasks complex. I wrote a post on my blog called, “Get the right people on the bus… but don’t leave them there!” My experiences with bad leaders serve as the backdrop for my thoughts.

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