Snapshots of Leadership

My latest work in progress is a book about leadership and teamwork. I wanted to introduce various characteristic traits and behaviors that have been associated with excellent leadership. There are countless books, articles, blogs, and discussion boards on leadership, and many of them have some form of “Top Ten” list of characteristics needed by great leaders. How then, to represent these many views? In a perfect world, I’d scrape the text from all the best sources of thinking on leadership and teamwork and distill from it all the characteristics associated with excellent leadership. More realistically, I thought about finding a word cloud on leadership.

<…scurries off, Googles “leadership word cloud”…>

It turns out, there are a LOT of leadership word clouds. Apparently, gathering ideas of what constitutes good leadership and creating a word cloud from it is a common activity for management workshops! The clouds have different emphasis and levels of detail, and breadth that I found surprising. Here are some illustrative examples. To see thousands (!) more, go here: leadership wordles.

See any surprises? Anything you disagree with?











































8 Comments on “Snapshots of Leadership

  1. Barbara – I think as a rule word clouds and other exercise aimed at defining leadership do a good job of identifying traite and characteristics, showing connectivity and inter realationships, but don’t really define why those all work in concert. The missing link that we all find hard to define is probably that trait that brings all the characteristics into play when we deal with real people relationships.

    • Terry thanks for stopping by! I agree with your post. That’s a big part of my motivation for doing this -to make the point that there are a lot of terms and traits and behaviors that are used to describe excellent leaders. There are many flavors of leadership! Trying to set the stage for self awareness and defining one’s own path.

  2. Yes, all of those pretty much tell what I’d expect them to about people who are good leaders. What they don’t do is explain why so many people whose attributes are the opposite of many of them get into leadership and are tolerated as leaders for extended periods of time. Put these into a wordle: Choleric, demanding, threatening, amoral, dishonest, self-serving, small-minded, self-centered, etc. etc. etc.

    • Ken – nice to hear from you, thanks for stopping by! Funny – I’ll have to go digging to see if there’s a “Worst Leader” type wordle. It did make me laugh to see “Drug Free” and “Loud” in the first one. But seriously, I think your point addresses the same issue that I touched on above with Terry – of course, there is no exact or perfect formula for what makes a good leader. In my work in progress, I was planning to illustrate that point by positive examples, but after your post I realize it would also be easy to post counter examples. So much material…

      • OK, no bitterness this time. I’d boil it all down to 2 attributes – vision and character. Everything else can be learned. Those two can’t.

  3. As with any tool to describe something, distilling down to a few key traits is the key. All great leaders, in my opinion, share 5 key traits:

    1. Visionary – They create a compelling vision people want to move toward.
    2. Ego – They have an ego – ego is not a bad word. You want a confident leader.
    3. Humble – They balance their ego by being humble, so that means they are open and want their people to drive the “how”.
    4. Empathy – They care about their people and seeing them succeed. They care deeply about their people.
    5. Risk-Takers – They are and allow their people to take risks as well.

    I know the clouds have many other elements, but to me these 5 contain the others. You can’t be a risk taker without believing in the art of the possible. In the end leaders – good ones – come in many shapes and sizes.

    • Pat – thanks for your perspective. Every time I think I’ve settled on a core set, like the set you’ve suggested, I find myself adding to it. Of course, many of them reflect a personal bias. For example, I would add integrity to your list above, which would capture being respectful, honest, fair. Your list definitely helps me distinguish – of the people in my experience who are poor at leadership, they lack most of the qualities you list. Except ego – and it’s in the wrong sense for them!

      My favorites from the word clouds above are still “loud” and “drug free”!

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