“What makes a good leader?”

I am amazed how often people, from egghead college professors to knucklehead junior ROTC pups, have passionate opinions on the “correct” answer.

I humbly contend that those that have a passionate answer don’t understand the question.

The CEO that guides his company with vision, compassion and command presence is the “pop rock” genre of leadership.  What makes good music?  Should we solely evaluate Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift?

CEO-esque leadership from the top of an organization is a just a vignette of leadership.  There is leadership from the bottom of an organization.  Peer-to-peer leadership.  Leadership with groups/people external to an organization.  Leadership to a structureless group. Unintended leadership, often by example. Leadership in war.  Leadership in revolution.  Leadership in politics.  Among many others.

Each of these leadership types are defined by the context.  Examples included:  crisis, change, growth, steady state, public, private, life or death . . .

This snapshot provides us with 70 distinct leadership scenarios each requiring 70 different set of talents, skills, and personality traits – each equally worthy of evaluation and analysis.

“What makes a good leader?”, “What is leadership?”  . . . These questions will continue to be discussed in college classrooms, sportscasters’ booths, and in the multitude of books that saturate Amazon Book’s “business” category.  If used to stimulate thought and discussion – great.

However, the peril of this tendency is to overlook the myriad of leadership opportunities that are available to us regardless of our position (real or perceived) within an organization.  Further, rarely does a specific set of leadership skills translate well to new scenarios and contexts.  As a consequence, many leaders are never identified to the world, or themselves, because they are, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, a fish whose talents are judged by its ability to climb a tree.