On admirable leaders

Pick any leader you admire and write a 500 word assessment of the person’s leadership and management style.

If it was only for the first part of the assignment, this could have been a short piece, but way short of the required five hundred words. None. The second part, assessment complicates matters. For any answer at all, assessment requires reflection, and by extension, requires an answer.  

My assessment draws on three components, all of relatively recent origin for myself; but expressing a deeper truth. The first a quote from Jim Wright, slightly modified: “… just because you have the word “<insert title of choice>” in front of your name doesn’t mean you’re sane, rational, qualified to run the country, or have an IQ higher than that of a sea cucumber.” The second is the definition of a leader. There is agreement that there is no one-size fits all definition. For this, I prefer Mindy Gibbins-Klein: “Leadership is having a vision, sharing that vision and inspiring others to support your vision while creating their own.” And the third component is the purpose of a leader: “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” This, by Tom Peters.

Where did failure of leadership happen for me?

“Ses van die beste.” Tails we won, Heads you lost at Cuito Carnavale. “Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.”

How is this six the best there is? Doesn’t feel to good for me, you sure there are no alternative?  “There was no battle at Cuito Carnavale”. Sadam certainly did not have those weapons of mass destruction in his back pocket when he was found.

Wright’s quote connect with my feeling about leaders. It expresses a non-academic version of the failure of leadership, that can be analysed using approaches afforded by using academic terminology.

Most leaders, self-proclaimed or chosen, do have a vision. Shared on any platform willing to give them fifteen minutes. And I suspect on a need to know basis with those assisting them in achieving their private vision. They go to great lengths in their attempts to convince you to support their vision, or those selective parts for which they need unquestioning assistance. They will most certainly not allow space for your own vision to develop. For to allow that would create the possibility of dissent, competition more competent, a vision more visionary. Most leaders crave followers, abhor other leaders.


And so I am not part of the most, when Craig E. Johnson asserts that “For most of us, leadership has a positive connotation.” Daniel Goleman ascribe emotional intelligence as the essential characteristic of a leader. In my experience, for most of me and what made me, leadership is a negative using emotional intelligence to manipulate, not shine.

Parker Palmer say about the responsibilities of leaders: “… lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.” Each of us should be a leader. We should each have a vision, even if only for ourselves. And allow others to develop their own. So I end in the future, by asking myself, am I an admirable leader for my child?

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