It’s hard to be a good leader if you are not a good person

Jann FreedLeading Leave a Comment

If you are in the position to influence the lives of others, you should read this post.


The title of this post was one of the conclusions in my book Leading with Wisdom:  Sage Advice from 100 Experts. But what does it mean to be a good person?  While there can be many answers to this question, I usually think of traits such as honesty, integrity, competent, compassion, understanding … basically someone you would want to follow.

Recently, I interviewed Dr. David Richo, author of many books and an authority on personal and spiritual growth, for my monthly podcast Becoming a Sage.  NOTE:  I post one podcast a month on the second Friday of the month.  His interview will be posted in a few months.  

So I asked Dr. Richo:  What does it mean to be a good person?

He responded by saying something to the effect that it is hard to be a good person without a spiritual practice–not religion necessarily, but it can include religion.  He mentioned meditation, yoga, reading, reflection … a regular discipline where the focus is internal for personal development and improvement.  He emphasized without a “spiritual practice” we tend to go on with our life without trying to become a better person.  These practices ground us –center us–and remind us where we need to shift, improve, develop.

Soon after this interview, I was in conversation with our pastor and shared Dr. Richo’s comments.  While he agreed, he added he believes we need the power of community to help us such as a faith community.  The community supports us and often provides role models of people living lives of integrity.  People in community working together to do good things in the world.  Rubbing elbows with these people can rub off and help us to be good people.  “The tribe is the vibe.”

We see examples of the power of community in groups such as Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Al-Anon.  This is why there are groups for people with similar interests such as running or biking–even book groups.  We could try to lose weight or stay sober on our own.  We can run, bike or read by ourselves.  But the group holds us accountable and makes us want to achieve our goals.

In these challenging times, it is not easy being a good person.  It is easier to compete than collaborate.  Become frustrated and give up rather than celebrate small wins.  Brene Brown advocates we need to have a wild heart which she defines as “grit and grace, tough and tender, excited and scared.” Our community helps us to have a “wild heart” as we navigate these times of political turmoil and stress.

Being a good person is hard work, but worth it.  It is a learning journey that never ends.  Mark C. Crowley has a podcast series titled Lead from the Heart.  I love how he ends each podcast:  When you lead from the heart, people follow.

On a scale of 1-10 (10 is high), how would you rate yourself as a good person?  

What work do you need to do to move up the scale?  

When will you do this work?

Who will hold you accountable?