What Makes a Great Leader

There is a problem today with what criteria a company should use to choose its CEO. So what makes a great leader? There are many elements that make a great leader. To put the company in a position of profit the leader must be chosen carefully from within or outside the company.

Fifty-eight percent of the companies cited significant talent gaps for critical leadership roles. That means that despite corporate training programs, off-sites, assessments, coaching, all of these things, more than half the companies had failed to grow enough great leaders. You may be asking yourself, is my company helping me to prepare to be a great 21st-century leader? The odds are, probably not. (Torres, 2013)

To begin with a company must have a corporate culture based on good values. The board choosing a CEO needs to select a person that fits the company’s culture and values or choose a person that will be able to change the culture and values for the better. The importance of the CEO’s honesty and values cannot be overlooked. This can be seen in a documentary about the transformation of Bogotá, Columbia: Transforming the values and culture of a city is analogous to a company.

“The real secret behind Mockus and Peñalosa’s [Mayor’s of Bogata] success is that they are two people characterized by extreme honesty and integrity in everything they do.  They are two leaders who have the necessary courage to stay true to their visions, even when the opinion polls go against them. Unlike other politicians who are controlled by strategies and tactics, they have not been driven by a lust for power, only by their ideas and philosophies. And if there is a lesson to be learned by their story, it must be that the change they have managed to bring about could never have come from the traditional political system. It could only have come from the outside.” (Dalsgaard, 2014)

Furthermore a leader must be at least one step ahead of the competition. Depending on the industry, they need to access what is important to their clients and to society as a whole. More often than not a sustainable business model is what is expected,

“There is mounting pressure from stakeholders — employees, customers, consumers, supply chain partners, competitors, investors, lenders, insurers, nongovernmental organizations, media, the government and society overall” (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009)

To be on the safe side a leader should drive the values of the company towards a product portfolio that fits a sustainable business model. Businesses are using their sustainable product portfolio to gain market dominance over their competitors. “Nike has turned sustainability prompted design changes into materials savings and positioning gains.” (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009)

A great leader must not go too far. They must stick to their values and promote a genuine sustainable business that still solves a problem for its clients. The leader cannot go too far either in regards to a promoting a sustainable product portfolio.

“…consumers evaluate firms differently when they attribute a firm’s societal initiative to public-serving motivations … When motivations are considered self-serving, attitudes toward firms are likely to diminish; whereas when motivations are deemed public-serving attitudes are more likely to be enhanced” (Raska & Shaw)

To hire the best people the company must also showcase its good corporate citizenship;

“The first reward is the ability to attract the very best people. Until recently, many good graduates would not consider a career in the oil industry; now they will consider a career in an alternative energy business, even if it is inside an oil company.” (Raska & Shaw)

An example of a successful company thanks for a proven corporate culture is Ericsson, it has the following values; professionalism, respect and perseverance. Each employee is required to know follow these values. The company was founded in 1876 and is the current market leader in Telecommunications. The CEO, Hans Vestberg, and the leadership team are aligned to the corporate culture and values. They are also continuously investing in research and development and looking to be one or more steps ahead of the competition. The products and services sold are constantly reducing in power consumption and impact on the environment. Ericsson has a mission focused across the business to improve sustainability & corporate responsibility. (Ericsson)

In conclusion what makes a great leader is the ability to inspire the company to follow a successful corporate culture and values. The leader also needs to keep the company one step ahead of the competition by understanding what clients want but he/she must also see into the future and understand how to invest in the long term. The leader must ensure the company has products with a genuine focus on sustainability. The next generation of employees is very conscious of the environmental impact of companies and they have choice so any good company leader must take note of public pressure to run a sustainable business. There are many examples of businesses with great leaders, the question is not if they should hire from within but that the next leader should have the correct values and vision of the future.

Works Cited


Dalsgaard, A. (Director). (2014). Bogotá Improving Civic Behavior Cities on Speed [Motion Picture].

Ericsson. (n.d.). https://www.facebook.com/ericsson. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from https://www.facebook.com/ericsson: https://www.facebook.com/ericsson

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2009, Fall). The Business of Sustainability. MITSloan Management Review.

Raska, D., & Shaw, D. (n.d.). When is going green good for company image? In D. Raska, & D. Shaw, When is going green good for company image? (pp. 326-347). Management Research Review.

Torres, R. (2013, October). https://www.ted.com/talks/roselinde_torres_what_it_takes_to_be_a_great_leader. Retrieved February 2015, from https://www.ted.com: https://www.ted.com/talks/roselinde_torres_what_it_takes_to_be_a_great_leader

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