As another eventful election passes, the question of effective leadership has again become a frequent topic of conversation. Too often political leaders focus more on the unsuitability of the opposing candidate, instead of selling the qualities of their own leadership. So here I have suggested five things every great leader has. While it’s not a complete list of all you need, these characteristics certainly form positive building blocks for good leadership.
A great leader doesn’t just have a loud voice, they accompany their words with actions. No matter how charismatic or eloquent, the most inspiring leaders are always those who demonstrate how to live a life dedicated to their cause. This cause can take the form of something smaller such as workplace or home behaviours, or something bigger such as national/international campaigning. In either case the best leaders are those who show integrity in matching their actions with words.
Integrity also demands a commitment to accountability and transparency. Great leaders do not stand on a pedestal, but instead bring up the rear in a marching crowd; as they raise up voices and humble themselves, showing openness and vulnerability in their position.
Great leaders must have a true belief in their endeavour. Passion and ambition fuel a successful leader. Where passion is lost, a leader will soon follow; leadership encounters difficulties, and without passion the withstanding of such trials is challenging. Passion is also crucial in inspiring others. The best teachers, coaches, bosses are those who truly love what they do; the most inspiring political leaders are those with a real passion for their cause.
3. Understanding and tolerance
These are important values regardless, but in leadership they are crucial. Great leaders are ‘uniters’ not ‘dividers’, they bring people together behind a common cause and have a gentle and understanding approach to discussion. It is worth saying that these qualities are not weaknesses.
Today’s culture sometimes tells us that kindness and negotiation are marks of poor strength or willpower, but one can be both kind and resolute. A strong argument does not require divisive language and personal assault. Power does not require disrespect. A great leader always makes space for conversation and criticism, allowing discourse and diplomacy.
Complimenting understanding and tolerance is radicalism. A willingness to step outside of the accepted ‘normal’ and strive for change and improvement is a key characteristic of a great leader. Total commitment to their enterprise, despite potential opposition, demonstrates strength and assuredness in a leader so certain of their cause that they will radically pursue it to the end. A leader prepared to take risks and stand outspoken inspires trust and belief as they show their resolute belief in their endeavour.
A truly commendable leader has a clear vision they are committed to and excited about. Vision comes hand in hand with passion. A great leader knows exactly what they are driving for and can communicate it with genuine dedication and excitement. Vision underpins all creative endeavour, and so without vision a great leader lacks substance or purpose.
Ultimately, the greatest leaders follow the example set by the essential leader – Jesus. The leadership of Jesus was passionate, understanding, radical, visionary, and abounding in integrity. Jesus led as the servant, indiscriminately giving his all. His outstanding leadership is demonstrated by his children today. Particularly exemplifying the pull of his leadership, in my opinion, is the dedication of the persecuted church. 2,983 Christians were killed for faith related reasons last year.
The continued devotion of Christians facing life or death situations in their walk with Christ is all the proof I need that great leadership looks like Jesus. Jesus inspires us to give our lives to faith and sacrifice everything. Imagine if we exemplified this leadership today, how many we could inspire to take up the cause of justice and ethical living in today’s broken world.