This story originally
appeared in the
March 2004 issue.
What is leadership?
This critical component
of business success
has many dimensions.
A look at
By Anita Thompson
Ifyou’re running a small business, you are potentially a “leader.”
Employees look to you to set the direction of the company.
Customers have expectations of you, and often the community
does as well. How you respond to these expectations can make
a big difference in the success of your company and your relationships. But what does it take to be a leader?
Defining leadership is a little like trying to corral a cloud. Just when
you think you’ve got it, it moves on.
And being a leader isn’t much different. There is no set of rules or
prescriptions that make one a leader. The many books penned by those
with business, political or military experience each espouse a slightly
different set of skills.
Certainly the view of what makes a leader is changing. Tom Peters
explained the trends as only he can in Fast Company (March 2001):
“Think of pre-1990 as the Age of Sucking Up to the Hierarchy. The Age
of the Promise ’Em Everything Pitch lasted from 1995 to 2000. The next
five years will be the Age of No-Bull Performance.”
So maybe the place to start is to consider what a leader isn’t.
Today’s leader isn’t the person
with a high charisma quotient.
Thankfully, high-profile, command-and-control-style leaders seem to have had their
day. Today’s leaders aren’t as concerned
with getting their picture on the cover of
Business Week unless it’s for demonstrating
In his landmark book, Good to Great, Jim
Collins examined the companies that broke
out of the pack to become standouts in their
industries. He found that, unlike the CEOs
who create media buzz, the leaders of “great”
companies are instead quietly focused on
achieving their vision for their firms. He calls
them Level 5 leaders and describes them as
having “a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”
They are driven to produce results that
benefit the company, but when results are
achieved they are quick to credit others. The
celebrity CEOs, on the other hand, are quick
to blame others—imports, the market, whatever—as the culprit for their lack of success.
The Costco Connection • NOVEMBER 2006