On Lions & Sheep
In the UK leadership of the government has just changed, leadership of the opposition is being challenged; in Turkey there has been an attempted coupe and in the USA new leaders are being paraded at conventions, in readiness for the final faceoff in the November election. Many people want to lead, but what are the qualities of a good leader? If there was just a few things that makes someone a good leader then there would only be a few books written about leadership, rather than the thousands that you could choose form. Leadership theories started by examining great past leaders like Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. Trait theory was born of this thinking, what are the traits that great leaders have in common? Intelligence, extraversion, and conscientiousness get a mention here. Then there are behavioural styles and situational leadership concepts. Whereby the circumstances of the situation that people are in will determine who should lead whom, to do what.
This then becomes why it is difficult to stipulate what exactly makes a good leader. It also informs us that leadership is something that most of us are engaged in at some point in our lives. It can be at work, in sports or even at home where you are a leader. For me a leadership situation is where one is making decisions and where one is asking others to walk a particular path as a result of those decisions. So what do you need to be a good leader? Here is what I think –
- Know your outcome. If you are leading people to do something then you need to have some idea as to where you are leading them. As well as having a vision, part of knowing what your outcome is also having the sensory awareness of knowing where you currently are.
- Be flexible. In the words of WWII German general Erwin Rommel “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” One can have a plan and at the same time one must be flexible enough to adapt and change as the circumstances demand.
- Have courage. This is the courage of your convictions, the courage to make tough choices, to have difficult conversations and the courage to change direction when that is what is required.
- Be accepting of ambiguity. All decisions are made with incomplete information. To quote Rommel again “A risk is a chance you take; if it fails you can recover. A gamble is a chance taken; if it fails recovery is impossible.” Weigh the potential outcomes of your decisions, with what you know and what you think you could know.
- Be inspiring. If you are a true leader you will be leading others. In order for them to follow you they must believe in you and your chosen path. How you can inspire others is varied; it could be the strength of your personality, your charisma; your oratory powers, how convincingly you make your argument; your personal example or the power of the vision that you place in the minds of others. However you do it, people must be inspired by you to act.
So let us now draw a little breath and look at the leaders that we have arrayed on the world stage. Do they have a vision, and is it rooted in a sound assessment of where we currently are? Are they inspiring and do they have courage? You will have your own opinions. If I scan the current crop I wouldn’t necessarily doubt their courage or flexibility but I do have serious doubts about their assessment of our current world situation and of their vision for the future. And I think that this covers business, science and spirituality as much as it does politics, but history will be the judge of that not me.
“An army of sheep led by the lion will defeat an army of lions led by the sheep.” Alexander the Great