What makes a great leader? 

Connor M (Year 12)

I understand that for many people, there is a burning desire to be a leader. Whether you are shy or bold, you can’t deny that the thought of having authority is constantly tugging at your mind – it’s basically ingrained in our DNA. But what many people don’t know is how to be a GREAT leader. Not just a mediocre leader or someone who does their job, but a leader who leaves a positive legacy in their wake. 

As the class of 2022 leave a legacy behind them as they finish their final days at the college, our emerging Year 12s will be filling in their shoes. The lessons that have been written are just building blocks in the legacy they will build for when they walk away from the College. But these lessons aren’t exclusive to just the 2022/23 prefects – they are for the grades younger than me, for my peers that head out into tertiary education and into the harsh reality of the real world, and even for parents, teachers and anyone else who happens to read this. 

As a Prefect myself and an entrepreneur with my own team behind me, I have had to understand the difficulties of leadership both in the school environment and in the work environment. I hope that the lessons I’ve learned and the countless failures and missteps I took will be a source of guidance for those who are looking to grow to be the leaders of tomorrow. There are so many words of wisdom and lessons that could be shared from those who have achieved greater success than me, but I will do the best I can to share their wisdom in five points. 


1. Leaders are not born but made – and they are made by other leaders 

The best leaders were never the way they were at birth, nor were they that way in their childhood. Some of the best leaders may not have been as excellent as we remember them in their early adulthood. But what is important is that the people we admire as leaders could not have been as wise and capable as we recognise them without being mentored by the greats of their time. These mentors recognise that their lessons can only be applied to aspiring leaders who have three core traits: 


2. Leaders are hungry, humble and appreciative  

These three traits are extremely important, and young leaders will find it difficult to grow into great leaders without possessing all of them. Hungry leaders don’t have to have a desire to be great or incredible, but must simply have a dream that they are willing to chase and are willing to persevere to see that dream come to fruition. Humble leaders understand that they are not perfect, and that leadership means that others are often responsible for your success. In recognising this reality, humble leaders take responsibility for when things go wrong and sincerely lavish praise on those who have helped them accomplish their goals and dreams. Appreciative leaders, like humble leaders, recognise that it is those who have come before them that have helped them to be great. Appreciative leaders put into action the lessons that they have learned from their predecessors and surpass the expectations set by their mentors. They must be appreciative, especially because… 


3. Leaders must not be perfect, but they must be excellent 

Apart from Jesus, no man or woman who has walked on this Earth has, is, or will be perfect – it is a truth we must come to terms with. As someone who had struggled with perfectionism in the past, I empathise with those who struggle to make things perfect. The craving to see everything fit together perfectly in the right time and place is like placing the last piece into the jigsaw puzzle. What can happen, though, is that the final piece vanishes in between the couches while the family dog comes and somehow eats half of the puzzle. Plans and people aren’t perfect. But they can be excellent! Excellence is about being the best version of yourself. It isn’t about self-perfection but self-improvement. Excellent leaders are more charismatic and influential than leaders who attempt to achieve perfection because they embrace their humanity and chisel away as many flaws as they can so that they become greater and greater each time. 


4. Leaders are always reading 

Never thought that this one would come around, eh? But it’s true – the greatest leaders are also readers. I’m not talking about reading Harry Potter books or any other fiction literature meant for entertainment; I mean non-fiction books that have been designed for you the reader to take away important lessons. Authors like Dale Carnegie, Jocko Willink, David J. Schwartz, Simon Sinek and Darren Hardy are all terrific leaders that have written life-changing lessons about personal development and the improvement of one’s capacity to lead in books titled How to Win Friends and Influence People, Extreme Ownership, The Magic of Thinking Big, Start with Why and The Compound Effect, respectively. Regular reading doesn’t just improve your literacy skills but also your capabilities to be an effective leader that others follow. 


5. Leaders are driven by a vision and inspire others to follow them 

Recently, I have been reading Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start with Why’, which talks about how leaders and organisations that don’t create an impact or lead poorly are thinking incorrectly, and he proposes a solution to this dilemma. Companies like Apple and people such as Martin Luther King Jr. inspire others to their cause by starting with WHY. When I mean WHY, I mean that they have a dream or a vision that drives every action and opportunity they pursue. Increased profits or a shiny badge aren’t true WHYs, yet Apple’s desire to build products to subvert the status quo or MLK Jr.’s dream to would wake up in a world where people were not judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character is a true motivator. Those are the types of dreams that attract people to the movement that you create. You then need people to turn that dream into a reality – those people are people who know HOW to accomplish your WHY. People who know HOW to achieve the dream through practical action are then able to generate tangible results, or WHAT they wish to see be the fruits of their labour. If people followed this pattern, then HOW they achieve WHAT they want will be reflective of WHY they work. But you don’t want to start the other way around or else nothing good will happen. 


To the emerging class of 2023, take these lessons to heart as you represent the senior student body and become role models for the rest of the school. For my peers in the graduating class of 2022, never forget these important lessons as your life changes radically and new experiences hit you hard with the realities of adulthood. And for everyone else, no matter what you do, I hope you have gained some insight from what I shared. I am excited for what this community can achieve and am excited to see some of you become major players on the future world stage!