How Leaders Become Great

By: Jonathan Dapra
Feb 20, 2023

Why is leadership an important concept for us to consider? The answer is likely obvious to those of you leading an organization or who are part of a company leadership team. Strong leadership generates quantifiable financial results—revenue growth, profitability, cash flow, customer satisfaction—and qualitative people results, like talent attraction & retention or employee engagement, not to mention your personal satisfaction as a leader.  

If leadership has such tangible impact on organizations and people, the question becomes: what does great leadership look like? People often ask us what makes a good leader. I typically start by asking what criteria they use to determine someone is a great leader. The answers I hear include: 

  • inspirational, 
  • hard working, 
  • show financial wizardry, or 
  • marketing genius. 

 

From our perspective, there is no such thing as a good or bad leader; it’s more about one’s degree of effectiveness. 

Most leaders are effective. Effective leadership results in solid revenue gains, profits, and incremental growth. This is important to understand: effective is the norm. If the results you achieve meet expectations, that’s okay. To truly understand great leadership, we need to take a brief look at statistics—I promise it will be brief and painless. Statistically, every population (including leaders) falls into the middle of a bell curve. Remember, most leaders make decisions and demonstrate a degree of performance one would evaluate as effective—they are getting the job done. 

Move the mean

No leader will last long if they consistently fall under the tail of less than effective. The other side of the curve is where we aspire to perform—always to be a highly effective leader who can impact profitability, growth, and meaningful change across their organizations. The more effective a leader is, the more likely their organizational results will improve. 

Move the Mean and See Exponential Results 

When we agree that leadership is an ever-developing skill defined by degrees of effectiveness, leaders can recognize a powerful message: your impact can improve daily. Leaders continually develop and refine their skills. What is important to recognize is how the most incremental improvements to one’s leadership capabilities will exponentially impact results across your organization. If a leader Identifies a skill or capability that supports effective leadership (e.g., financial acumen, strategic thinking, being a team developer, operational savvy, etc.) and makes a concerted effort to strengthen that capability, what happens? As they improve a skill or capability, the higher the likelihood that their decisions and actions lead to better results. 

Move the mean points

In other words, they move the mean of their effectiveness and exponentially drive their results—greater financial gains, improved market position, more effective operations, and increased associate motivation and engagement.  

How do you become a great leader?  

It is all about moving the mean. Be bold and unafraid; look at yourself and assess your leadership capabilities. Where are you strong? What capabilities could be strengthened? Recognize that leadership is a skill that can be continuously improved and start the process of building your professional development. As you do, look at your results. You will see it almost immediately. Remember: move the mean and recognize exponential results. That’s the challenge (and the formula) for growing into a great leader. 

Jonathan Dapra is a co-founder of Alaric, and its Chief Innovation Officer. He is a leadership assessment and development practitioner with over 20 years’ experience as an executive, entrepreneur, trainer, and educator. He is the co-author of From 50 to 500.
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