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.
If palaces were built in a day, every beggar would have one. Leaders who achieve great things, therefore, persevere greatly.
Pyramids, for example, stand as a testament of what persistence can accomplish. Relentless to see their dreams come to life, the pharaohs of old have not been forgotten thousands of years after they died.
A leader’s achievements are in proportion to his tenacity. That is why the winner in any battle is never the smartest, but the last one standing.
Wisdom is the right application of knowledge. The greater the wisdom a leader possesses, therefore, the more he can accomplish.
Insight enables a leader to see what others cannot, which enables him to achieve what others cannot. It also enables a leader to deal shrewdly with his opponents and wisely with his allies.
Where intelligence doubles a leader’s value, wisdom triples it. King Solomon is the greatest example of this. Though he ruled over a small country surrounded by hostile kingdoms, through sagacity, he managed to outwit every ruler competing with him and ended up ruling a territory far larger than any of his predecessors.
Extraordinary leaders are generous with their time, money, knowledge, and talents.
It is not what one receives that makes him great, but what one gives. And, giving is receiving inside out, so the more a leader gives, the more he receives, and the more he stands out.
Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Oprah Winfrey all spent a significant portion of their lives inspiring people.
Life is difficult for all: no one is spared from adversity, sorrow, and hardship. That is why multitudes are drawn to great leaders: they lift people up.
It goes without saying: the more people a leader inspires, the more people are willing to follow him.
When you lift someone up, you don’t need a gun or a sword to get them to follow you; he does so willingly.Evidence of this is Jesus.
Without money, soldiers, or weapons, Jesus managed to inspire His generation so much that, thousands of years later, Napoleon Bonaparte said of Him:
I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour, millions of men would die for Him.
When things go right, a leader is praised, but when they go wrong, a leader is criticized. Leaders who stand out share praise but take the blame.
One who holds others responsible for his failures can never improve, and one who cannot improve can never lead, for how can one better others if one cannot better himself?
The greater a leader’s accountability, the greater his nobility.
Instinct is the gut feeling you have about something or someone for which you have no rational explanation.
In any discipline, intuition is what separates those who succeed from those who fail.
People who rise to the top are not always the smartest, but they are the most instinctive.
Two people can possess the same knowledge, but one may make a different decision based solely on a hunch.
Instinctively knowing when to hold, when to fold, and when to play is what separates great poker players from ordinary ones.
If people don’t know what you require of them, they will never fulfill your expectations.
How a leader communicates to his subordinates determines how effectively they perform.
Winston Churchill was said to spend two days practicing his speech, well aware of the power of words.
Even in nature, animals would not be able to hunt together, nor would birds be able to migrate as one in perfect formation, if it weren’t for communication.
The only way for a leader to stand out is to help those beneath him stand out, and the only way for a leader to do so is to practice excellence himself.
In word, he must practice it; in deed, he must apply it; and in all things, he must perform it.
Diligence in little things brings great rewards; diligence in big things brings extraordinary rewards.
A leader’s rewards are in proportion to the quality of his leadership.
Leadership is influence; therefore to be a great leader, one must be able to draw a great number of people and to draw a great number of people, one must have charisma.
No one follows anyone they dislike, but people are willing to die for those they love, only to stone those they hate instead.
The greater a leader’s charisma, therefore, the greater the number of people he can draw, and the greater the things he can accomplish.
Charisma is powerful––so powerful that men like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King changed the world because of it.
Humans are spirit beings housed in a body. If you touch their minds, they will follow you; if you touch their hearts, they will fight for you; and if you touch their souls, they will even die for you.
A leader who intends to achieve extraordinary things must, therefore, be spiritual, for it is from the soul that men create their highest works and do their highest deeds.
There is no one willing to die for Bill Gates, but millions are ready to die for Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna, though they died more than two thousand years ago.