There is an absolute mountain of material available on the topic of leadership. It seems that nearly every week a new book or seminar appears with the promise that it will teach you the 3, 7, or 38 things you need to do in order to be an effective leader. The authors discuss things like vision, character, influence and motivation and we are hungry for the insight so we devour these resources and attempt to put the tools we have gained to good use.
Any number of things could be behind our hunger to be better leaders. The fact is that all of us, even though we may not be leaders vocationally, often find ourselves in a position of leadership in other parts of our lives. Most of us want to be leaders at some level and I think that most of us also feel somewhat inadequate for those leadership positions that we have. For instance, if you are a parent, guess what, you are a leader for your children. Almost every parent that I know has some doubt as to whether he or she is leading (they might say raising) their child correctly. This doubt is evident in the fact that almost all of us (myself included) initially become fairly angry when our parenting methods are questioned. I have seen similar reactions when a persons leadership is questioned.
The problem in all of this is that the focus of everything is on the leader. So the vision becomes the leaders vision. The character becomes the leaders character. Influence and motivation become reflective of the leaders own desires. In that way, the organization, team or family becomes an alter ego of the leader with all of the same strengths and weaknesses of that person. Over time, the leaders ability to motivate and influence those around him or her begins to wear thin and sooner or later the endeavor will fail. The fact is that there are a number of ways to be effective and even to accomplish this or that goal. But to be good, there has to be something more than just effectiveness. History is full of effective leaders who accomplished their goals, but nothing that was good.
I believe that a truly good leader must focus on those he or she leads. It is impossible to motivate and influence others when you dont care about their needs. Additionally, part of being human is having flaws, it is important for leaders to know their flaws and allow those they lead to help in weak areas so that the whole becomes stronger and does not have the same weaknesses as the leader. Finally, sometimes vision becomes a little blurry. A good leader has to allow those who follow to suggest adjustments.
Basically, it takes a great deal of humility to be a truly good leader. Not the false humility presented by award winners on one of the numerous entertainment award shows, but true humility that puts ego aside in order to gain the greater good. A good leader has to be fundamentally unselfish. In order to accomplish something good, a leader has to bring out the best in those who follow. Only then will the followers help to bring out the best in the leader.