My last blog post ended with an admonition to today’s leaders to wake up to the fact that on this tiny blue planet we are all interconnected, and war is no longer any kind of solution to our issues.
That led me to start thinking about our next generation of leaders. Where do they come from? Are they just born, as some would have us believe, or are they made? And what differentiates a good leader from one who is not so good or even bad?
It is interesting that people are often on the lookout for that one leader, the one who will change it all; someone so brilliant and with such a deep understanding that they will be able to lead us to prosperity, or glory, or salvation, or what have you. This fierce desire is clearly manifest in politics, in literature and in religion throughout the ages.
I am of the firm belief that in today’s world, it is no longer a matter of that one single leader who may or may not come along. The world is so diverse and so complex that one leader could not possibly take it all on. It takes leaders (plural)—lots of them. If we look closely, we see that leaders permeate all levels of society, right down to the family unit, the mother and father. The more real leaders we have, the better off the world is going to be.
What Is A Leader?
The answer to that question can be boiled down to a simplicity: a leader is someone who takes responsibility—for a family, a group, a company, or a nation. This responsibility doesn’t come in the form of a desire to force, command and control: it stems from the desire to serve. When a leader does an incredible job that is what he or she does.
A remarkable example of this type of leadership was given by author Simon Sinek at a recent TED talk entitled “Simon Sinek: Why great leaders make you feel safe.”:
In interviewing military heroes as to why they would place their own lives at serious risk to save others, Sinek found that the answer was unanimous: “Because they would have done it for me.” That kind of leadership can exist outside of the military—and today this is sorely needed.
In order to succeed, a leader must have substantial portions of integrity, honesty, and values. Most people know this almost instinctively—and that is why politicians do their level best to demonstrate these traits, even when they don’t have them, and why people tend to follow them. Today, however, those characteristics can no longer be a simple matter of lip service. In this interconnected age of the internet it becomes quite difficult to say one thing and mean another, for people are going to quickly find out the truth.
No, a leader has to actually have and demonstrate these traits. A leader is a role model for others, and must act that way at all times.
So where do these leaders come from? How does a great leader come about? My next blog in this series will take up these questions in detail.