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What does it mean to be a good leader?

Many theories and books have been written on this topic and there is so much to cover, in fact there are on average four leadership papers produced daily – so where do you start and who do you listen to? 

In the first instance, yourself. Leadership is an art, not a science and understanding more about how you show up as a leader is the single most important step when it comes to better leadership. We can’t change what we don’t know. People who seek to understand leadership by studying the topic relentlessly will inevitably be frustrated and disappointed, so we start by studying ourselves.  Leadership is a constantly evolving practice and every day is a school day when it comes to leadership. This formula is a starting point for discovering more about your leadership style specifically and being more curious about yourself as a leader and how you show up. This formula is part of a progressive series.

Take Stock

Spend some time reflecting on your practice as a leader. How do you show up? What are some of the key behaviours that you demonstrate, both good and bad? Make a list and think about how this is impacting your leadership journey. Is it helping or hindering? If you struggle to make a list then keep a journal and make note of your leader-follower interactions and try to name and notice your key traits.

Good vs Bad Leadership

Think about the best leaders you’ve been led by – make a list of all the traits/characteristics/behaviours that they demonstrated and identify which ones you feel are non-negotiable for great leadership. If you haven’t had great leaders in the past, use role models or sports leaders, entrepreneurs etc. to help you identify these traits.

Do the same thing for the bad leaders you’ve been led by or have observed leading. Which behaviours here are non-negotiable in leadership and should be avoided.

Stop, Start, Continue

After reflecting on your own leadership behaviours and those that you both admire and abhor, draw up a stop, start and continue chart.

1) What are some identified behaviours that you need to stop doing in order to be a more effective leader?

2) What behaviours do you want to introduce to your leadership practice?

3) What behaviours are you already demonstrating that are supporting you to be a great leader?

At My Best/Worst

Spend some time thinking about leadership situations where you were both at your best and at your worst.

These can be any types of situations from leading on the sports field, school, work or any other situation where you took up a leadership role. For both the best and the worst situations, reflect on what made it so, what were some of the reasons you behaved the way you did? What pressure/s triggered you? What were the circumstances? Are their any patterns you need to be aware of?


Ask for feedback, but not just any feedback – impact feedback. Impact feedback informs the receiver about the effect their actions have had on other people or organisations. We use impact feedback specifically because it can shed light on aspects we possibly weren’t aware of. Set yourself up successfully by applying the following:

  1. Prepare the person/s ahead of time by asking if they would be happy to at some point give you feedback – give them context and tell them you are working on your leadership style. Vulnerability in this process goes along way.
  1. Understand what type of feedback or on what you might be looking for
  2. Ask for that feedback in real time – after a meeting, interaction etc
  3. Pose specific questions
  4. Ask for examples to bring it to life
  5. Give to get. Sometimes you need to give feedback to others to establish that psychological safety and willingness to return the favour.
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