What makes a leader great?


A leader is one “who leads or commands a group, organization or country” according to Oxford Dictionary, in other words, the leader is also someone who has a goal to achieve. Consequently, he/she stimulates, encourages and compels others to this objective. (Reh, 2016) Nowadays, with the advance of technology and the speed of information “you cannot model yourself on leadership archetypes from the past and expect to meet the challenges of today’s workplace.” (Tice, 2007, ¶ 1) considering the new perspectives of the society about innovation and agility. Because of these global changes, the enterprises and their leaders are forced to restructure themselves and achieve excellence in management. In this context, the skills, the knowledge, and effectiveness have become desirable and more required in the figure of the leader in the 21st century. It is important to rethink the manners to manage these factors, because it determines if a business is able to compete in the massive market. However, it is not possible to manage a business if the leader does not have the skills required for the current situation in the world. Therefore, leadership is not about defining a goal, recruiting people and making them work for you. A real leader uses him/her leadership to make big things happen, such as an idea, an ideology or even a dream. Thus, it is necessary to inspire people to make them interested in these objectives and motivated to work for an idea that matches their beliefs. Therefore, in the 21st century, one of the most important topics in business workplace is about the way that the leader deals with people and information as well as social and environmental aspects.

However, many leaders fail because they do not think about the repercussions of their business, which means they are not concerned with teaching or shaping their collaborators. It makes many companies lose credibility, because according to Ferres (2015, ¶ 2), the employees or collaborators are “very important people behind the scenes” and if the leader does not spend more time valorizing people who work with him/her, consequently, his/her business is going to be unsuccessful, considering that each part of the business relies on the human element. In addition, the employee chooses the company, because he identifies himself on its values and feels comfortable with the company’s environment (Flowers and Hughes, 1973). Because of this, one of the most important things the leader has to accomplish is to reinforce the reasons that make his employees loyal to the company. According to these authors, “companies can do this by providing conditions compatible with employee’s values for working and living” (1973, ¶ 15). Therefore, the first point that makes a leader great is shaping new leaders and giving them good opportunities to grow professionally and personally through achievement and responsibility.

The second point to consider to being a successful leader is to know how to manage information, which means having a notion about interpreting data and extracting clear information to explain it to someone else. It is essential to be able to describe the aims clearly and briefly, because “if you cannot transmit your vision to your team, you will not have all working towards the same goal” (Prive, 2012, ¶6). Therefore, a great leader creates an organizational culture in which effective communication flows naturally. Thus, an effective communication takes the information, defines the priorities and directs it to the appropriate sector. It makes the business more efficient, reducing errors and obstacles.

In addition, besides managing the internal information, the leader needs to understand the external information emanating from society in which the company operates. Thus, the third point of the great leader is social responsibility. For this reason, the leader needs to have empathy, in other words, the capability to put himself/herself in the place of another. This is the distinction of the leader, especially in the 21st century, considering the new perspectives of the society, which seeks to rescue the human values even in the business environment. According to Pruzan & Miller (2006, p. 8), being responsible “is especially relevant for business leaders because they have the power, granted in hierarchical organizational contexts, to make decisions that affect others”. Understanding this point of view, one of the company’s roles is to assist the difficulties of the society as a godfather, which means listening to the community’s demands and act to change and solve the issues. A leader must recognize himself/herself as a representative of the society, providing welfare for people. Consequently, this attitude also impacts the buying choices of the clients, who prefer make an ethical acquisition looking for companies that have a well-defined social responsibility strategy. (Investopedia, 2015, ¶2) Therefore, if the leader wants that his/her company remains in the market indefinitely, he/she needs to face and overcome this challenge.

The fourth and last point to being a great leader is related to environmental aspects. No different from the social, the environmental dimension requires special attention. Many companies have consumed and wasted a huge amount of natural resources to create and sell their products. Even though some businesses have invested in recycling materials and reusing resources, this problem is still a concern of the business market, especially in the current environmentally-conscious world. According to Natural Leaders Actions for Local Environmental Leadership (2010, p. 1), “local leaders need to be well equipped to provide a secure future for their communities”, in other words, it is necessary to develop business strategies considering future generations. For this reason, a great leader performs his/her actions concerned about the outcome of their productions. It is simple logic: if the leader is only concerned with profit over using natural resources, as a human, he will also be compromising his life. Therefore, it is duty of the leader to understand that she also is nature and that the quantity of the natural resources used to create products will interfere in the success of the business.

These combined points provide values, which connect to the new world perspectives and, consequently, shape the new leader of the 21st century. In conclusion, a leader cannot maintain the same perception in the business world for a long time, considering that the market is in constant flux. Therefore, a leader who adapts to these changes while being conscious of new principles is achieving a good position in the universe of leadership.


Bradshaw, G. & Lee, J. (2010, July). Natural Leaders Actions for Local Environmental.

Leadership. Local Government Information Unit — LGiU. London. http://www.lgiu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Natural-Leaders.pdf

Ferres, Z. (2015, May 11). The Human Element: Your Most Important Business Resource.

Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245848

Flowers, V. S. & Hughes, C. L. (1973). Why Employees Stay. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/1973/07/why-employees-stay

Investopedia. (2015, April 10). Why is social responsibility important to a business? Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/041015/why-social-responsibility-important-business.asp

Oxford Dictionary. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/leader (2016, September 16).

Prive, T. (2012, December 19). Top 10 Qualities That Make A Great Leader. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyaprive/2012/12/19/top-10-qualities-that-make-a-great-leader/#2e8db1a53564

Pruzan, P. & Miller, W. C. (2005). Spirituality as the basis of responsible leaders and responsible companies. London: Routledge Publishers. Retrieved from http://www.globaldharma.org/Files%20-%20Adobe%20Acrobat/Publications/SBL%20Spirituality%20as%20the%20basis%20of%20responsible%20leadership%20(Bk%20Chptr)%20Maak.pdf

Reh, F. J. (2016, July 19). What is a leader? The Balance. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-a-leader-2275811

Tice, C. (2007, February 1). Building the 21st Century Leader. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/173522

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