Pallab Seth via Getty Images
A good leader, in my opinion, is a hybrid. It is part commander and part servant.
When we think of leaders, we usually visualize someone of great charisma. This is a very powerful trait, and there is no denying that leaders at times need to be cold-headed, decisive, and charismatic. Then there is the communicative leader, which we are also very familiar with. The one who is a team player. If the charismatic leader utilizes "vertical relationships", a communicative leader utilizes "horizontal relationships" with his/her peers.
To be a good leader, there needs to be a balance between the commander and the servant, but how do you determine the balance?
The answer is setting.
What I came to understand is that the setting really determines which type of leadership is effective. If you are working at a company where you are the sole boss, it can be quite convenient to command people instructions. Of course some sympathy and a will to listen to people's opinion will increase your value.
However, in a student organization where there is no real obligation and people are not getting paid to do their jobs, commanding and being the charismatic leader will have negative consequences.
See, no matter how good you are at your job and no matter how true your words may be, everyone has an opinion and they are free to be critical. People are unique, and their opinions will not always coincide with yours. Therefore, whatever you do, at some point you will get negative feedback.
In this kind of environment, to be a good leader means to present yourself as equals with others. You are NOT someone who knows more than others. This is what you need to convince yourself, even if you really know more than others. You need to persuade yourself that this leadership role is a privilege rather than an achievement. It means to make people content. To serve people. To communicate. To help people understand. To have compassion... And so forth.
I think it is very difficult to carry out both leadership styles at the same time. It is rather easy to be either charismatic or communicative, but not both.
Why is that?
Charismatic leaders secretly want to be respected. They want complete obedience and cooperation. Even if there is disagreement, leaders expect peers to present their argument with some degree of respect. If it appears as if they are being challenged to be made a fool in front of everyone, leaders will take great offense.
On the other hand, communicative leaders tend to depend on their peers. They're comfortable being friends, rather than being a commander. These type of leaders tend to have difficulty in making major decisions on their own as they become too dependent on peers. To be honest, lack of personal opinion tend to lead to wrong decisions and no coherence.
In the end, a good leader is someone who is very skilled at utilizing both vertical and horizontal relationships according to the appropriate environment. To know when to be the charismatic leader and when to be the servant requires a great deal of intuition, decisiveness, and attention to detail. I believe that if you are a natural leader, experience will help you reach your potential. If you thought that you were a natural, but experience has not helped you progress, maybe you should think why you were not able to adapt appropriately. Maybe there are obstacles that you need to first resolve before really taking on an another leadership role. If those obstacles are not resolvable and adaptation to different situations is still difficult... maybe you are really not a natural leader after all.