What is a good leader?

This week there was a lot of talk about leadership. In the United Kingdom, Kier Starmer, from Labour, achieved a landslide victory. In France, the “republican barrier” worked and the left won the second round of the legislature – although still without a name for candidate for prime minister. In the USA, the discussion revolves around two names, but with the same questions: are Joe Biden and Donald Trump capable of governing?

The clear point is one: we need leaders, whether in politics, in companies, in academia, in life. But how do you “make” a leader? And, most importantly, how “he does” a good leader?

“A leader has two important characteristics. The first is that he goes somewhere. The second is that he is able to persuade other people to go with him”: the phrase is attributed to a politician, former US President Harry S. Truman. It appeared in the middle of an article by opinion of Washington Post about leadership – and I thought it served as a good summary for the idea of ​​this text.

The text by Garrett M. Graff, who wrote the piece, starts from one principle: great leaders are scarce. He spoke to Nels Olson (who he hesitates to describe as a mere headhunter), to paint a portrait of a good leader. This is what brought us: “There has to be a certain degree of openness, of humility. You have to be willing to understand and not have a personality that exaggerates. Every successful CEO I’ve met doesn’t lose their head when a particular issue isn’t It’s going well – they know how to self-regulate.”

This is studied. In 2019, I wrote about a study coordinated by the University of Coimbra that told us that the ideal boss for the Portuguese was “understanding”, “respectful”, “leader”, “fair” and “friendly”, characteristics that value more than competence – does it seem like a repetition of the previous paragraphs?

Nuno Rebelo dos Santos is a researcher at the University of Évora and is one of the authors of this study. Almost five years later, he has left the “ideal boss” behind, but continues to study leadership models, focusing on positive and virtuous leadership and its dark side – toxic and abusive leadership.

A virtuous leader is one who is “more focused on the relationship with employees”, who “informs, guides, emotionally supports, promotes participation in decisions and sets an example”, he explains. But it is also true when he leads with a focus on “the social impact” of his action, acting with “a great sense of justice and ethics”. Or even when seeking that the “exercise of leadership is aligned with the well-being and development of the system” where the company operates. That is: “I look at the activity of my organization and exercise my leadership taking into account the impact of my team on society, the environment, the individuals who are affected by my action”, summarizes the researcher.

The characteristics of a bad (or toxic) leader are easier to enumerate. Here they are:

  • High self-centeredness: “A certain personal vanity, a certain narcissism, to a point that becomes dysfunctional”;
  • He accuses others of “their own faults”: “A toxic boss is often capable of humiliating his employee, even in public”;
  • Appropriation of the merits of others – for example, saying that the work you did not do is yours;
  • He uses relationships to catapult his own career in an “often disrespectful” way;
  • Mood variations “that create tension”: “Sometimes there are even indicators”, he explains. “For example, when the football club lost and you already know that everyone is going to be rude.”

“The toxic boss is always someone who is emotionally immature”, explains Nuno Rebelo dos Santos. The good news is that this can be changed; The bad thing is that no one does it thanks to you, you have to want it.

And to this is added another problem: toxic leaders can be “efficient and productive” according to financial metrics, which explains why they are not immediately removed, even when they “cause substantial damage to the organization as a whole, especially in the medium and long term term”.

The danger is the victims they make along the way, the people who become “emotional prisoners of their toxic boss” and who continue to “suffer, often with psychosomatic illnesses that arise from the work environment”. The quality of management is one of the main motivators that “lead people to leave” a company.

From the researcher’s point of view, there are “more and more companies aware and concerned” about management and “those that want to follow a virtuous path have become more prominent.” But there are also those who manage to “prosper by doing bad work and serving poorly, even with good financial results”.

We desperately need more leaders from the first group, the virtuous ones, those who want to inspire – and it’s not just in companies.

Extra work

Young people and double employment

A fifth of young people in Portugal have two jobs: this is one of the conclusions of the book Os Jovens e o Trabalho em Portugal – Desigualdades, (Des)Proteção e Futuro, published this Thursday. Mariana Durães spoke with Renato Miguel do Carmo, professor and researcher at Iscte and one of the authors of the study, who concluded that “young people with parents with higher levels of education from the outset have more advantages”, from the “educational trajectory” to “insertion into the job market”. Inequalities that last forever.

Productivity tips for lazy people

Joel Snape, who signs this article from Guardian, begins without hesitation: “I’m a lazy man.” “The problem is that I have a lot of things to do,” he continues, and so he leaves 11 bullshit-proof pieces of advice that he uses to be productive. Some are as simple as “point everything out.” Others are more out of the box like “putting a rubber band on your cell phone” (so you don’t use it when you need to concentrate).

Apps for the summer

We are all already thinking the same thing. Isabel Rubio, from The countrymade a list of apps essential for summer — from Sun Smart, which indicates when we should avoid sun exposure, to the magnifying glass that shows us whether we have applied sunscreen correctly. Everything to avoid scalds.


Francesco Giganti

Journalist, social media, blogger and pop culture obsessive in newshubpro

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