How You Know You’ve Been a Great Leader

Jake Wilder
4 min readJun 15, 2022

Who are you inspiring?

iStock/Chinnapong

“In everybody’s life, you have to have someone who believes in you and tells you to stay at it.” I read that the other day in an interview with Bob Newhart. The interviewer asked him how he broke into comedy and Newhart credited his friend Dan Sorkin for believing in him and helping him get his first recording deal. It was over 60 years ago and that act of support still resonated.

Which made me stop and think, would anyone tell a similar story about me one day? In ten, twenty, or sixty years, would anyone think back and remember how I believed in them and helped them to go on to greater things?

I hope so, but if I’m being honest with myself, probably not as many as there should be. Probably not as many as I would like.

Jackie Robinson said, “A life isn’t significant except for its impact on other lives.” And yet, it’s easy to forget this amidst the daily busyness. We all have a list of things we need to do and it’s easy to get caught up in those actions. With so many demands for our time and attention, we have to compromise somewhere. Too often it’s at the expense of the people around us.

Yet prioritizing the work at the expense of the people never seems to work out. In an ironic twist, it only guarantees that we’ll sacrifice the work as well.

In one of the largest studies on burnout, Gallup found the biggest cause to be “unfair treatment at work.” Followed by unmanageable workloads, unclear management communication, lack of management support, and unreasonable time pressure.

There’s a common theme to these. They all involve the relationships between managers and employees. If the boss doesn’t prioritize people, employees are more likely to lose engagement and burnout.

And when was the last time you saw high-quality work come from disengaged and burned-out employees?

Leadership is, first and foremost, about the people. Leading others well means helping them meet their potential. It means believing in others so that they’ll believe in themselves.

It means being on their side, challenging them, and helping them succeed.

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Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.