Q&A on Leadership - What makes a good leader?

The Opus College of Business Intersections series returns April 17 with a conversation on leadership between Craig Herkert, former CEO of SUPERVALU, and Pat Hedberg, Ph.D., professor of Management at the Opus College of Business. Here are Dr. Hedberg's answers to 3 big questions on leadership.

Q: Who can you cite as an example of a truly effective as a leader?

I find effective leaders everywhere I look. Leaders come in many forms, and from many places. Effective leaders have an ability to match their strengths and passions with important opportunities, something that can be done in many human endeavors. When people are asked to name leaders they personally know, family members are often mentioned. So, a mother can be a family leader even though she may not have a fancy title or office. A CEO can be a leader, and it's difficult for an organization to do well if the CEO is not a leader. Yet organizations need leaders everywhere, people who can challenge the culture, who can suggest new ways of doing things, who can through their own integrity and presence instill important values.

Q: What makes someone a good leader – particularly at different levels of an organization?

A good leader shows initiative. Good leaders are problem or opportunity finders, someone who sees and asks good questions. And good leaders are able to influence others to act in ways that will benefit the organization. Good leaders get things done through the relationships they build with others. As you move through different levels of an organization, this does not change. What does change is the scope of the problems, and the sphere of influence widens. The basics remain the same. The consequences, however, are bigger and the impact stronger as you move into more authority in an organization. That complexity makes it very difficult to truly influence. Organizational leaders need a grounded sense of their own authenticity, supportive relationships, and the courage to engage others in getting things done. Leaders, by their very definition, need followers, and they do not work alone.

Q: Is there a difference between a leader and a manager?

A good manager is a good leader. It's hard to manage well without strong leadership skills. I do see a distinction, though, between leading and managing. Management seems to be the less exciting, yet essential, activities of setting priorities, developing systems and processes, and monitoring progress. Leaders inspire people to make a difference. Leadership is required if you want to motivate or be innovative. Organizations need both activities.

You can john Dr. Hedberg at the Intersections in Leadership event April 17, where she will have a conversation with Craig Herkert, former CEO of SUPERVALU. Admission is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required.