What is leadership? Are leaders made or born? What differentiates ordinary leaders from great ones?
These are just three of the countless questions among many that contemporary philosophers, sociologists, and leadership experts have been grappling with.
Some say in order to truly understand the qualities that make leaders great, study extraordinary people like Alexander the Great, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, and Mother Theresa.
Though all these leaders had different world views, vocation, training, and resources, it is undeniable they all shared at least one or more of the traits below.
People are drawn to heroes but repulsed by cowards. When we look at brave people, we see something inside of them that we desire for ourselves, which is why all great leaders stand out, even before they achieve seemingly impossible feats.
Courage expands one’s potential; when it shrinks, so does the prospect of achieving success. Fear is limiting; therefore, leaders must be fearless when pursuing their limitless ambitions.
Had Alexander the Great not been valiant, he wouldn’t have conquered the Persian army of 200, 000 soldiers with just 35, 000 men.
A leader is only as good as his word. No business, organization, or country can function at its highest potential if its principal lacks integrity.
People are only willing to go to Hell -and- back for someone they trust. If they don’t have faith in you, you could promise them the world and they wouldn’t walk a mile for you.
A great example of someone with integrity is Jesus: His disciples were willing to die for Him even long after He had died because of the faith they had in the integrity of His promises.
When you love what you do and do what you love, it shows in the quality of your work. It is difficult, if not impossible, for one to greatly excel at that which he does not enjoy.
Passion is the very fountain from which one gets the energy to keep going in spite of fear, obstacles, and critics.
Likewise, love is the most powerful force in the universe––so powerful that philosophers, both ancient and contemporary, opine: “God is love, and love is God.”
Therefore, when a leader loves what he does and does what he loves, he can expect transcendent success.
Michelangelo’s passion for sculpting is what made him the leader in his field. He was so passionate about his work that he continued to work on the Sistine Chapel, even after it impaired his sight and badly injured his neck.
It is impossible to create anything new without original thoughts, so when a business or organization stops coming up with new ideas, new companies, both larger or smaller, take its place.
Leaders who stand out, therefore, are highly creative.Ingenuity also enables them to do much with little, as well as to solve problems quickly.
Steve Jobs is one leader who was known to display exceptional creative thinking. It was his creative leadership that saved Apple from the brink of failure when he took over in 1997.
Simplifying their products and making them part of our everyday experience, Apple is now worth over $700 billion dollars.
A leader’s task is to lift people up when they are down and to lift them even higher when they are already up. To do this, great leaders are incessantly positive; one cannot give what one does not have himself.
And as a result of their perpetual optimism, they are able to take great risks and inspire others to do so, which is the only route to great accomplishments.
A humble leader is willing to learn from both those who know more and those who know less than him; knowledge is often found in the least likely people and places.
The humbler a leader is, therefore, the more he can learn.
Modesty also sets great leaders apart; we prefer to be around people who make us feel great and who talk us up, not who talk down to us.
That is the very reason millions, even today, revere Nelson Mandela; if you were a pauper, he would talk to you as if you were a prince.
Approachable, he was sought by people of all ranks; his humility attracted more followers than a general’s sword could.
Most, if not all, of the world’s great discoveries, were made by curious people. Being inquisitive encourages one to explore what others do not, thereby increasing his or her chances of unearthing new things.
They say curiosity killed the cat, but often, it has rewarded the inquisitive.
Had the Wright brothers not been curious about flying, we would not have airplanes.
Like perfume, compassion draws people to––not away from––you. We only bare our hearts and souls to those we are convinced truly care.
Before followers can completely invest themselves in a leader’s hopes and dreams, they must be fully convinced that the leader is fully invested in theirs.
That is why Mother Theresa, though just a nun, was able to achieve so much.
Her empathy for the poor and others made her irresistible, so much so that, by the time she died in 1997, I.K. Gujral, Prime Minister of India, said of her: “A beacon of light and hope for millions of poor has gone out of our lives.”
Life is the most unpredictable entity in the universe––just about as capricious as the wind––and any leader who is not flexible will fail at his mission.
When the wind blows, a tree bends, and so do remarkable leaders when unforeseen circumstances come their way.
Had Cyrus the Great not adapted his battle techniques when conquering the impenetrable fortress of Babylon, he would not have been in the history books.
To accomplish great things requires great sacrifice, and great sacrifice cannot be achieved without great commitment.
Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa took approximately four years to complete, and Thomas Edison made 1, 000 unsuccessful attempts before he completed the light bulb.
If creating works of genius requires unwavering commitment, so does leading the people you employ to create them.