I had a quick question. Recently a co-worker posted a how-to guide entitled "How to be a good leadership at work". To me the sentence seems incorrect. But I can't explain why. Technically leadership is a noun, just like in the sentence "How to be a good person at work" would be correct, because person is also a noun.

Perhaps it's one of those things that sounds incorrect to me but really is correct. Can anyone explain this to me?

2 Answers 2


The problem is with the verb not the noun. So, while you can be a good person or a good leader, you cannot be a good leadership. Similarly, you can be a good friend but not be a good friendship. The sentence can be rewritten as:

  • How to be a good leader at work.


  • How to demonstrate good leadership at work.
  • Oh I do understand that, intuitively, at least. But the word leadership is, by definition, a noun. Effectively interchanging the word "leadership" with another noun makes it correct. I'm wondering if it has anything to do with "leadership" generally referring to more than one person, or a collection. Are there any specific rules with article use and counted nouns?
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 6:50
  • @Bob, I may have misinterpreted your question. It seems that the issue here is that leadership can have two meanings. Firstly, it can mean the people who are in control of a company, and secondly, it can refer to the qualities that make someone a good leader. I assumed you were using it in the second sense. As to its first sense, I guess it is as possible to say "How to be a good leadership" as to say "How to be a good committee" or "How to be a good government", since all three are collective nouns. It still sounds a little odd to me, however.
    – Shoe
    Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 7:04
  • Yes it does sound strange to me. Essentially, what I'm asking is, based on the sentence alone (since I'm unclear of the writer's intent) is there a technical/grammatical reason why this sentence is incorrect? Or, is it correct technically and is just forever doomed to sound strange to me?
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 7:12
  • @Bob, If leadership is interpreted as a collective noun, then it is grammatically correct to refer to "a good leadership", as in: "Every successful company needs a good leadership." So, yes, How to be a good leadership is grammatical too.
    – Shoe
    Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 7:23
  • thanks. Although it sounds super weird, I suppose I'll have to try and not let it bother me. I've marked the above answer correct then. Thanks again!
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 7:39

The problem is not the leadership, but the article "a". If you wanted to say what you wanted to say, it would be

How to be good leadership at work.

This means, how would you become the trait "leadership" at work, and it can poetically have the intended meaning. There is such a thing as leadership, but it is a non-count noun "much leadership", not "many leadership", and so cannot be "a leadership", but just "leadership".

The count/non-count distinction is missing in other languages, so it might be a much confusing.

  • I appreciate the help. Not sure why people down-voted you though. I think the person above already gave me the answer I was looking for. But thanks for the help. STILL sounds weird to me, but technically it's right.
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 1:31
  • @Bob: It's right only in a different usage of the word "leadership", where "the leadership" is a noun meaning a bunch of leaders. Then "I am a leadership" means I am a bunch of people. This is the reason I was downvoted--- because I did not recognize the alternate meaning of leadership, which might as well be an entirely different word. The answer I give is correct for the meaning of "leadership" in the meaning you gave originally. I didn't change the meaning at any point. It might also be downvoted because I tend to piss ignorant people off, and that's ok, I'm used to it.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 4:34

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