Great Leaders Make People Feel Great (Bad Leaders …)

“People will forget what you said, My Boss Is A Bully people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” These are the words of novelist Maya Angelou and I totally agree.

Early in my career, a colleague with a cause wanted me to jump in and help. The nature of the cause is irrelevant and long forgotten. But I do remember how she made me feel and she made me feel lousy.

My colleague was a bright young engineer. She saw herself as a strong leader with rapidly expanding influence and impact. When she made me feel lousy, she taught me one of the most important leadership lessons I have ever learned.

In many ways, she was the epitome of a strong leader when she broached her idea:

  • She was able to articulate her vision and objectives easily.
  • She clearly believed in the power of her vision.
  • She had a good eye for talent.
  • She was bold, eager, and willing to speak up take initiative.

But then she ran into trouble. She did not understand how to generate commitment:

  • She had already decided what role I should take in her cause before we sat down together.
  • She did all the talking.
  • She stubbornly repeated why I should want to do what she desired.
  • She was sure she was right.
  • She made me feel guilty and selfish.
  • She couldn’t hear “no.”

Some might call this persistence and determination, both of which are necessary leadership traits.

I call it coercion. Or manipulation. I don’t take well to either. Most people don’t.

Worst of all:

  • She had to win.

And since she didn’t, our relationship was damaged.

Not everyone finds it easy to say no to someone so opinionated and forceful. Many people make preserving relationships a top priority. When pressed, they get quiet. If the pressure continues, they acquiesce. However, they remember exactly how they felt when they reluctantly “agreed.” They remember the pressure and the discomfort. They remember the lack of respect for their opinions. As a result, while they may follow along, they don’t do so with the trust and commitment that good leaders engender and that leads to amazing results.

Great leaders make people feel great. How? They:

  • Set clear and inspiring goals
  • Ensure their employees share their enthusiasm for those goals
  • Listen and respect the opinions of those who must help make the dreams come true
  • Value the contributions of everyone and support efforts to overcome obstacles
  • Celebrate successes even as new challenges are posed

The people around these leaders feel great because of the way they are treated, the challenges they are given, and the accomplishments they are a part of.

As a matter of fact, these people feel so great they knock down walls to help their leaders succeed.



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