Real Simple Definition of Good Leadership

There are just two things that a leader needs to do:

  1. Ensure the people following / working for him / her know what their objectives are.
  2. Provide those people with the resources to achieve their objectives.

It is that simple. Really, it is that simple.

I’ve worked for a lot of different people over the decades in multiple cultures across many countries and socio-economic groups. I’ve worked with all types, from micro-managers to absentee managers. I’ve observed that what the good leaders did boiled down to just these two things. Now, there’s detail behind these things.

“Ensure the people following him / her or working for him / her know what their objectives are” means that the objectives are:

  • defined unambiguously;
  • described as outcomes (or deliverables);
  • SMART – Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely;
  • agreed with the staff member / follower.

“Provide those people with the resources to achieve their objectives” could include:

  • financial and material resources (the agreed budget must be funded);
  • human resources (the people with whom they need to work to achieve the objectives are made available);
  • skill resources (the staff member / follower has access to all the skills necessary to achieve the objectives);
  • processes that they need to or could use.

Leadership all seems to boil down to something as simple as this. Note that this definition is independent of the management / leadership style (e.g. command and control / benevolent / servant) provided by the manager / leader. It is also independent of culture and distance over which leadership is provided.

One note. Personally I’ve noticed that the very best managers / leaders for whom I have worked have always done the above in the context of helping me progress towards my life and career goals. I think that this was because they recognized that they were leading me for only a small portion of my career / life. By developing me as part of achieving the current organizational goals they gave my next leader the opportunity to have me contribute further towards to goals of the organization. I thought that this was a good thing to attempt to do.

There’s a reason why you’ve never read a management book that makes leadership this simple: because you can’t sell a book with only one page.

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