Sun Tzu was a Chinese military General who also wrote "The Art of War". He describes a leader as one who "cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to proper methods and discipline."
There is admittedly no singular definition that is universally accepted as to what it means to be a leader but over the years, of all the material and conversations that I have engaged with on this subject, there is this all pervasive ideology of inspiring leadership. I have developed my own thoughts around leadership, where I adhere to a foundation of "Transformational Leadership."
I was told recently that we all are leaders, and why the question was further posed, well why can’t we all be leaders?
Well, I suppose we can all be leaders in the most basic definition of the concept. However, what type of leader will we be, and what will we be leading people towards?
I am almost certain that a gang leader sees his or herself as a person of great influence and authority. But are they good for the social dynamics and community advancement?
The CEO of a Fortune 500 or a FTSE 100 company may also see themselves as the best at what they do. But if they lead that company to 4 consecutive quarters of non-performance and limited profitability, would the Board still see them as a good leader to move the organisation forward?
This brings me now to the matter of political leadership. What makes a good political leader?
I once came across a piece in UK based publication, The Independent, back in 2014. This was during the time of former UK Labour Leader, Ed Miliband – a man who though was very smart and educated – he lacked that leadership nous. Miliband did not ooze command of presence one iota. His policy pronunciations did not resonate, and not so much because they were bad ideas, but partly too because his presence when delivering did not carry respect and command. I will come back to those two terms later; that of respect and command.
Of course, there were other factors that led to Ed Miliband’s failure as leader.
The piece in The Independent I referred to, written by Steve Richards, opened by asking; "What are the qualifications that make a good leader?"
Richards then goes on to state; "Bizarrely, the question is rarely posed. In order to become a nurse, teacher, police officer, doctor, lawyer, or train driver there are clearly defined requirements. The criteria needed for political leadership are vague if they exist at all."
What I find personally, is that there are way too many political leaders that focus solely on development economics. Not that this is a bad thing, but I hold a view where I see political leadership and development as more encompassing beyond development economics.
When we speak of development, I am of the view that we are talking about people ultimately, thus we must see development in a much wider context than simply economic development. Economic development is certainly fundamental for the advancement of any society, but so too is social and political development. We cannot ignore these other pivotal cornerstones with a one tracked mentality that it is all about the economy.
I have said before, by way of a previous article, that political leadership should also be inspiring leadership. It must be a sort of leadership that has presence, command, respect and authority - qualities that set that leader apart whenever they make their move within the community.
Leaders rise from varying quarters. Some are born to lead, and so exude that natural ability that draws people to them, where their management and work ethic is one that inspires others around them to follow their charge.
Leadership though, cannot be both present and yet vacant. That, in my view, is a dereliction of duty.
Leadership cannot linger in the shadows and blame their woes on everyone else around them before they have shown, and proven that the responsibility they have been given is one they can effectively handle. That blame culture type of leadership is weakness of mind and spirit. Such a leader will see respect fading from their circle quite fast.
Leadership yes, should extend to be all inclusive of other ideas and personalities, but not so much as to relinquish the lines of demarcation between their authority as leader – and that of their acceptance of others being in their circle of influence in advancing a cause or policy.
The question as to who is leading must never become a profound conversation in any organisation or country. Once that question is being asked repeatedly, then the person who should be leading must question if this is truly the role they are fit for.