D.G. Martin: Traits show the good and bad in leadership


D.G. Martin



Thursday, February 1, 2018

We need good leaders more than ever.

In our local schools and businesses and churches. We need them in responsible government positions in our state and at the highest national level.

So, what is good leadership? How do you find it? How do you develop it? And how do you deal with the consequences of bad leadership?

I was thinking of these questions the other day when I stumbled into a meeting sponsored by Chapel Hill’s Friends of Downtown organization that had invited Gerald Bell to make a presentation.

Bell may be best known among North Carolina basketball fans as the author of a popular book about Coach Dean Smith’s leadership lessons.

But in the rest of the world, especially the international business community, his organization, Bell Leadership, is known as a leadership developer coach, and teacher at the highest levels. Its mission “is to help people develop their personal effectiveness and leadership skills to contribute to humankind.”

In existence since 1972, the organization based in Chapel Hill has trained more than 500,000 leaders in almost 5,000 organizations in over 30 countries.

As part of its training it has developed a detailed personality profile to help its students evaluate their leadership styles, potentials, strengths and weaknesses.

For the Friends of Downtown group, Bell summarized six characteristics of the most highly effective leaders.

1. Achievement. From childhood, Bell says, there is a drive to accomplish. Watch the joy of a child when it finally succeeds in learning to walk. The drive to succeed, to create new things, and to start projects is a healthy attribute of a positive and optimistic leader.

2. Self worth. The feeling that “I am somebody” is a positive trait. Parents who encourage children’s courage and dignity in dealing with others promote this value. The best leaders treat others with dignity.

3. Control. The need for control can be seen in 2 year olds and teenagers asserting independence. Gaining self-control through discipline, structure, and clarity can signal someone who is a producer, who hates to waste time.

4. Pleasure. Contentment and happiness can be positive traits. Parents who teach that it is OK to fail and how to recover from it are giving their children a platform for positive happiness.

5. Love. We need it. Bell says, “There is a genetic code need for love.” He says you can measure how others feel about you by a ”seek-me-out-index.” How many people seek you out for advice and help when they have a problem? He says that good listening skills draw people to you.

6. Play. Enjoying play is a trait of a good leader. In fact good strategic planning is playing with ideas.

What about the bad leadership traits?

1. Performer. They show off, self-promote, and go on overdrive.

2. Attacker. They are hostile, critical, and getting even, and only happy when they’re in a fight. They never apologize.

3. Rigidity. An “unbender.” It is all black or white for rigid people. They order people to do things rather than working with them. Underneath they dislike people. They command and destroy.

4. Avoider. They are unwilling to take risks.

5. Pleaser. They are too focused on being nice. They do not communicate directly and reflect a low degree of competitiveness.

6. Drifter. Like those, Dr. Bell says, who live in Volkswagen vans, they crave freedom but avoid responsibility.

Bell asks his students to what degree they possess the six “best leader” behavior patterns and/or the six “worst leader’ patterns? Are they “more of an entrepreneur (best leader) or a performer (worst leader)? A team builder or a pleaser? A producer or a commander?”

When his presentation was over, I found myself wishing that Bell could take his leadership program to the Congress and the White House.

D.G. Martin Jr. is the host of UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch, a retired lawyer, politician and university administrator.