In our celebrity culture, it is almost instinctual to evaluate a leader on their “product,” the thing they offer to the world that is consumed by their patrons, and thus evaluated by the rubrics of “customer satisfaction.” This is great for capitalism, but lethal for leadership. A “customer service” evaluation of leadership is necessarily done at a far distance by a wide audience. Hence, it is easy to see why a charismatic personality drawing large crowds, and is lauded by applause is often mistaken for excellent leadership. It is easy to conflate who they are with what they do. However, ovations and acclamations are not the same as leadership, and in some cases adulation can be the very antithesis of good leadership.
This is life-threateningly dangerous. This causes an organization to be extremely fragile, vulnerable, and subject merely to performance rather than mission.
Good leadership, on the other hand, is fundamentally founded upon a person’s character and integrity, and that can only be evaluated by getting close. So, evaluate a leader’s character and integrity, not by the crowds, but by their closest companions. Listen to those who love the leader, but are not impressed by them. Consider carefully how the inner circle feels, and the kind of people they are becoming as a result of being near that leader. They provide the most accurate and helpful litmus test of excellent leadership.