Why great leaders are not like Mary Poppins

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I’ve been swamped lately by some of those simplistic blog posts and articles about leadership. You know the ones I mean. They have headlines like “Characteristics of Great Leaders,” Some headlines are variations on “Seven Things Great Leaders Do Every Tuesday.”

Yikes! Read too many of those and you’ll start to think that great leaders are superior lifeforms, very much like Mary Poppins. She was, after all, “practically perfect in every way.” Everywhere. And all the time.

What dangerous rubbish! It’s just a short step from that kind of thinking to the idea that poor you can never attain such heights. When you think that, you’re going to stop trying and the world just might lose the great leader you could have become.

Don’t despair. Here are three things we know about great leaders that will make you feel better.

Great leaders are all different

Great leaders aren’t just different from you and me. They’re different from each other.

Great leaders come in all shapes and sizes and both available genders. Some are psychologically solid and stable, while others seem to dance along the edge of insanity. Some are brilliant, others not so much.

Every great leader filters the basic principles of leadership through his or her own unique personality. You can do that, too.

Context is critical

Leadership is situational. A person can be a terrific leader in one context and a complete bust in a different one. Some leaders are great with small teams, but not larger groups, for others it’s the reverse. Industry matters, so does corporate culture, and so does the challenge. Some leaders succeed when margins are slim and every penny counts. Others can ride a unicorn into the stratosphere.

Great leaders hunt for the situations where they can make a critical difference. You can do that.

Great Leaders are human

Being human means that great leaders are good at some things and not at others. It means they have good days and bad days. They all have a few bad habits and some things they aren’t proud of. They’re role models for some things and anti-heroes for other things

You don’t have to work at this one, you’re human too. Just work on becoming a better human and leader.

Bottom Line

Greatness is rare in any field. But if you work at filtering proven leadership principles through your personality, finding situations where you can be effective, and becoming the best person you can be, you might just attain greatness, even though you’ll never be practically perfect in every way.

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