Thursday's Thoughts on Leadership: What makes a person an effective leader?

In today's world companies come and go every single day. This is caused by any number of reasons, but often you find that the ultimate demise starts with flawed leadership. It takes good strong leadership and management to guide an organization to success. While many people consider management and leadership to be synonymous, they are in reality two different concepts. A person can be a good leader, but if he does not know how to manage a company, that company will be destined to fail. Also, if a person has great management skills but lacks in leadership, no matter how good he is, if he cannot lead his employees towards the goal, then it is a failed attempt at success. Management is considered a job description whereas leadership is considered a trait. So what makes a person a great leader? For one example, we can turn to the story of one of the most admired and respected leaders in American history, John D. Rockefeller. Among his many accomplishments, Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry and defined the structure of modern philanthropy.

In his decades of business, one of the key characteristics that propelled Rockefeller to success was his strong leadership abilities. It wasn't his status, nor his age that made Rockefeller a great leader. Instead, it was his influence. People around him wanted to follow him; they were inspired by him to do more than they ever thought they were capable of. It was his ability to create a strong sense of teamwork and his own energy and passion that drove his workers and thus his company.

He was a real professional who possessed good character and above all a good sense of business. He knew his job and he understood human nature and the importance of caring for his workers. He possessed the ability to motivate his employees by setting the example and by being a good role model for the workers.

He was a great example of the fact that leadership is not a one way relationship. Because of his leadership, the people he worked with were inspired to achieve greatness too. Even his competitors joined him and achieved greater success following Rockefeller rather than competing with him! A successful New York refiner in his own right, Henry Rodgers, joined Standard Oil and became one of Rockefeller's key men in the formation of the Standard Oil Trust.

By the time Standard Oil Trust was ordered to break up, it owned a 70% market share of the refined oil market in the U.S. It was broken up into 34 new companies. These included, among many others, Continental Oil, which became Conoco, now part of ConocoPhillips; Standard of Indiana, which became Amoco, now part of BP; Standard of California, which became Chevron; Standard of New Jersey, which became Esso (and later, Exxon), now part of ExxonMobil; Standard of New York, which became Mobil, now part of ExxonMobil; and Standard of Ohio, which became Sohio now part of BP. Pennzoil and Chevron have remained independent.

Quite the family tree and it all started with one effective leader.