Leadership Qualities & Examples of Good Leaders, be they Famous, in the Community or in the Family
Sir Winston Churchill
'Project Good Words'
Project Good Words, instigated by hubber Jo Goldsmith, has encouraged writers to work on angles of one-word themes, provided weekly. It has given us a challenge to improve our writing and to spread a philosophy of optimism, bringing out the positive aspects of each word from our points of view. This week's word is 'Leadership'. See below for a link to Jo's hub.
What Makes a Leader?
Take a moment to think about what you expect from a leader, what qualities you expect he or she to possess, to impart, to use in the act of leading.
A leader has the power to affect other people's lives, for better or worse. He or she therefore has a huge responsibility to use that position well.
Think of anyone, famous or not, from history or present day, whom you regard as a good leader. Why do you think they were good leaders?
Consider the Following
What about Hitler, Churchill, Mandela, Gandhi, Caesar, Genghis Khan...? I could go on.
Think of people in your neighbourhood or town who lead: the mayor, a councillor, your MP, the leader of your local women’s group, the organiser of a local charity, the mainstay in your immediate neighbourhood or street.
In what way do they make an impact on you and on others? Do you like them, admire them, respect them? Some more than others, maybe? Why is that? Do they have any qualities in common?
Quotes - 'Helping'
“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” - Abraham Lincoln
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” - Maya Angelo
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” - Charles Dickens
Qualities of Leadership
Here are a few qualities suggested by Jo Goldsmith:
- inspiring confidence,
- being fair,
- understanding people,
- being humble,
- having integrity,
- having courage,
- wanting to help,
- having knowledge in a particular field,
- having knowledge and experience in a range of life skills.
You will think of others but I’m going to use those as a good basis from which to start.
Can Anybody be a Leader?
Who do you Know with those Qualities?
There are men and women in our communities who have them, who use them for good and each community benefits accordingly. However, having any one of those qualities, especially in the first 6 on the list, requires strength of character. Having them all requires super-strength.
Yet there are people who combine many of those talents, gifts, skills, whatever you want to call them. How do they do that? Is it a latent talent? Is it God-given? Do they work at it? Do they build upon experience simply through an understanding of the world around them?
A Special Person, A Good Example
A little of all of the above perhaps. What I believe is that it takes a special person to lead, to be respected and followed. Above all - and for me this is the crux of the matter - that person must lead by example and by good example, benefiting others along the way.
If not, those talents may become forces of evil. For some, the awareness of their own power as leaders can be a catalyst to make that power the be all and end all; it consumes them and they lead in order to satisfy their own ends. That, surely, cannot make a good leader.
Let’s look at some of the qualities mentioned.
Inspiring Confidence, Being Fair
Can you put your finger on why someone inspires you with confidence? You trust them but you’re not sure exactly why. They have that certain air about them. They seem calm and in control of themselves, so are they therefore able to control any situation? You may have seen some proof of their success or you may not need to.
Being fair means weighing up a situation and acting without prejudice, giving quarter, listening to both sides, giving everyone a reasonable chance. If any blame is obvious, it takes courage to point that out but it can be done in an objective way.
Those who Inspired Me
Showing Courage, Understanding People
Courage is needed for dangerous situations; keeping calm and appearing to be in control even if your heart is racing, weighing up the risks and acting accordingly. Sometimes there’s no time to think and courage is needed to do what you feel is right.
Realising that people react differently to situations for various reasons, realising they may be afraid, being able to recognise body language and changing emotions, all this requires experience but also it requires being able to change your approach when appropriate.
Humility & Integrity
Being humble and wanting to help others are qualities a leader must have. Playing the big ‘I am’ doesn’t wash when people are looking to you to solve a problem, relying on you to understand their needs, to calmly deal with a situation. Pomposity and bravado don’t work, they create negativity and resentment.
Integrity is being honest, being morally strong, sticking to basic principles. It’s no good pretending you can do something. Admitting that you have the same fears as others will make them feel better, as long as you can show that you have some answers, that you can give them a good chance of overcoming any problem, that you feel there is hope and a way through to success. Being positive and explaining your plan inspires some of that confidence that is so important.
Knowledge & Experience
If you have knowledge and experience to guide you, then you may be better equipped to guide others. That knowledge and experience are for nothing if you do not know how to adapt them to help others, to inspire a courage within those who are looking to you for the answers. You have to show them how certain actions, as a team, are going to solve the problem.
Leaders of the PastClick thumbnail to view full-size
Leaders from History
Ok, so let’s look at a few figures who’ve been leaders and work out what makes a ‘good’ leader stand apart. It’s debatable whether leaders in the past have been good or not but I want to find the qualities which make that difference.
Hitler: He had a good command of words, he must have had some courage, he understood a person’s need to believe in something, to hope that someone could make a difference. His ‘charisma’ was evident. However, he ruled by fear, he became a fanatic, he was not well-organised and even the closest of his team conspired against him. He did not have respect, he wasn’t loved by the people, he was feared, he became desperate and withdrew when defeat loomed.
Mandela: Charisma oozed from this man. He spoke softly but with deliberation and wisdom. He earned respect. He went to prison for a long time because of his actions and his beliefs but he continued to work for his cause from his prison cell. He was revered throughout the world. His courage was evident and he led a nation to eventual peace, or at least comparative peace.
Gadaffi: Here is someone who appeared to be a strong, competent leader but who slid into the trap of loving the power, some say becoming insane. His later years as leader of Lybia were full of bloodshed and fear. His sons perpetuated this terror. They might well have had courage but they did not have respect, they did not inspire confidence, they were not humble and they understood little of what their people needed.
Churchill: He was perhaps a little pompous but he understood his people and he understood the need for action when others didn’t understand the danger. He had a way with words and could fire enthusiasm, patriotism and imagination. He was a leader who understood strategy and could command respect. He was generally liked and revered by the nation. Without him, would we have succeeded so well?
Some Thoughts & Examples
What, then, is this ‘presence’ or ‘charisma’ that some have, this ability to instill confidence, respect, even love?
It seems to me that it boils down to having the humility to admit that they don’t have all the answers, that they’re scared sometimes, that they might make mistakes, but having the courage to try to overcome, to have a plan, to put that plan to others in such a way that makes them believe they can make a difference, they can do it, they can succeed.
Being able to explain calmly and clearly what is needed and how to succeed is of utmost importance.
Which Way should we Go?
A Personal Experience
Some years ago, I went on a skiing holiday with some friends. The strong skier in the group had already descended the mountain (helpful, eh?!). It was getting dark and bad weather was coming in. I had done the route down once before; my two companions hadn’t.
I decided that it was up to me to try to get us down as quickly and as safely as possible. They believed I knew the way, I was 95% sure I did, so I set off and led the way. I was not an experienced, or even a good, skier, my heart was in my mouth and I was straining to recognise every bend in the slope. I wouldn’t entertain any thought that we wouldn’t get to our destination, that we would go the wrong way. We were going to get there and we were going to be safe; that’s all I thought about. My friends trusted me because they had no better idea than I did. They thought I knew the route better than was actually the case but I had to let them believe that; otherwise doubt, questions, apprehension, loss of time, maybe arguments, could have ensued and we didn’t have time for that.
We arrived steadily and safely, with no mishap. I was shaking with relief when we reached our goal. Was it foolhardy of me to keep going and to tell them just to follow me? Bear in mind that we did not then have mobile phones so we had to act on our own initiative. They were grateful that I led them down and to this day they have no idea that I wasn’t totally sure I could do that.
However, I gave them that belief. I kept them calm and we just kept descending slowly and carefully. Why did they trust me? Why did I feel that I had to do it? To me, there was no choice. I knew more than they did about that route so I was the one who had to decide where to go. That was the bottom line. There was no heroics, no triumph, just relief and a feeling of luck and probably some divine guidance along the way.
I hear around me that 'our youngsters don’t know they’re born', 'they wouldn’t know how to survive', 'they have it too soft'. Maybe, but I like to be positive; I believe there are many who will make good leaders. I believe many of our teenagers have great integrity and great imagination.
Hope for the Future
A few weeks ago I learnt that my 13 year old granddaughter had been encouraged by her PE teacher to go on a leadership course. In one so young, I see qualities of leadership that I never possessed at that age, nor do I possess such qualities now.
Often quiet and thoughtful, yet full of laughter with a sense of humour both mature and skittish, she inspires respect.
Her patience and sense of fun act as a magnet to younger ones. In her peer group she has a few good friends and true. She finds the appropriate level of interaction with anyone from babies to oldies. Family and friends alike love her. Her smile is sunshine to the soul.
Yet she is bullied. With guidance she has learnt to ignore it, to deal with it, to rise above it, though it must still hurt her. She finds better things to do.
Youth club, playing guitar, drawing, a keen interest in and wonderful flair for photography, all give her a range of activities where her social skills, along with her appreciation of art and nature, have opportunities to develop, improve and enrich her character.
She is helpful, at home and elsewhere. She has a sensitivity and an understanding of others which belie her age. She listens to people. She gives the impression that she’s interested in them. She is gentle and fair with those younger than herself and they adore her; she has a ‘presence’ of some sort, this quality I can’t put my finger on.
The Young are our Future Leaders
Flowing from Within
I believe this 'presence' comes from within. That natural disposition of some, mixed with an appreciation of the world and its people around them, combine to allow that quality to flow like life-giving water in a stream. It’s fresh, clear, cool and has a goal. It reaches a destiny, often by back-waters and by many twists and turns, but it arrives. It arrives stronger and surer, deeper and clearer, bursting forth with a power which cleanses and gives life to those who travel with it.
The link to ‘Leadership’ is Jo Goldsmith’s hub: http://jo_goldsmith11.hubpages.com/hub/Project-Good-Words-Week-30
Hub by Beth Eaglescliffe:
What about You?
Have you ever been a leader? Are you a leader? What are your thoughts on leadership? I'd love to hear about it in the comments' section.
What do you Think?
Which quality of leadership is most important?
© 2014 Ann Carr