How to do Leadership !

Leadership and the characteristics of leaders have always intrigued me. What makes a good leader?

Why is one person more able to get people to follow them over another? What did the leader do which helped to overcome adversity and win even though the odds were in favour of the enemy? The same rules apply in business… what are the distinct capabilities of successful leaders which led their organizations to success in commerce?

Fly like an Eagle

An eagle is used to symbolize leadership but does an eagle bring people along?

As part of this curiosity I’ve begun to read a book called “The founding Fathers on Leadership” – I know I know it’s very American but who can deny the fact that some of the greatest leaders of our time have arisen from the USA.

As I go through the book I’m going to document my thoughts and reflections on the subject so hopefully we can all become better leaders !




“Leadership is leaders acting – as well as caring, inspiring and persuading others to act – for certain shared goals that represent the values – the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations – of themselves and the people they represent. And the genius of leadership lies in the manner in which leaders care about , visualize and act on their own and their followers’ values and motivations.”

Wow, that definition really has a lot in it… so a leader is about the betterment of all and not just him or herself – and the actions are aligned to everyone’s goals !

So leader acts to inspire and persuade others to act – why? Because he or she cares for those they lead with both wanting to achieve certain goals which are aligned with all of their values. These goals are not only aligned with their values but help to achieve the wants, needs, aspirations and expectations of both leaders and those being led – who of course would never be willing to be led unless they had the same aims and had faith in the leader to get them their.

So from this definition what immediately jumped out at me is a leader, a real leader doesn’t use coercive power – rather people act on a leaders vision because they share it. They believe the leader cares and he / she has persuaded them and shown that they care. Also leaders focus on actions which center around the shared goals – if a leader was to provide a shared vision than self centered goals how likely is it you would believe they are acting in the interests of all? Finally it seems leaders have conviction, they believe what they are doing is right for both themselves and the society / team / organization as a whole. These characteristics are far from the attributes of a manager or a commander of a regiment – who necessarily require orders to be followed – these attributes are all about creating a consensus, having a common cause, which all not only wish to follow but are an integral part of. Establishing trust, discussing, debating, understanding and learning all begin with listening since only through listening can a leader hope to inspire and persuade others without who it would be impossible to achieve any of the goals. This is key I feel without buy-in and support the leader can’t hope to get anywhere – even if the team is compensated with money – without a shared vision, without everyone on board achievements will be half-hearted and more of a tick box exercise with change being superficial.

So can we learn to be good leaders and how? By studying great leaders of the past we will understand the characteristics of leaders. These can be summed up as follows:

  • Leaders are visionary.
  • Leaders are decisive.
  • Leaders can effectively communicate their vision and decisions to a wide array of people, using a variety of venues and methods.
  • Leaders intuitively understand human nature and have the ability to care, establish trust and build alliances.
  • Leaders can work in teams an are able to build consensus, compromise when necessary, value diversity of thought, ability nd culture.
  • Leaders CAN successfully create and manage change.

As you can see the list above is not exhaustive and focuses on the overt, the obvious skills a leader should demonstrate; there are other innate personal traits which make truely great leaders;

  • High ethical standards – ‘do the right thing’ – principled
  • Strong bias for action
  • High rate of energy and uncontrollable desire to achieve
  • Are life long learners with unbridled curiosity and intellectual capacity. Many leaders had a house full of books when young
  • Curious and constantly looking to improve themselves, others and the things around them
  • Self confidence that becomes courage in adversity with the willingness to take risks while having the belief they are meant for a special purpose, perhaps even greatness.

Many of the skills can above can be learnt or developed but there seems to be a distinct connection between great leaders and their childhood experiences;

Negative or virtually non-existent attachment to fathers.

Having a tendency due to early childhood loss / tragedy to rely on oneself. This may have helped to bring the realization of life is short so make the most of it and achieve.

A strong bond with their mother and are in fact preferred or favored by their mothers which seems to bring out a peculiar self-reliance and an unshakable optimism.

Howard Gardner, in his book ‘Leading minds’ noted;

“Future leaders have often lost fathers at an early age. According to one study over 60 percent of major British political leaders lost a parent in childhood, more often the father”

President Obama would be a perfect example of this !!! As would Steve jobs who was an unwanted child adopted by wealthy parents !



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