Leadership Part 8

By Peter Worman

We’ve all heard of individuals who seem to possess natural leadership qualities, in other words an individual who others seem to naturally follow. What we don’t often hear about is what exactly these qualities are. Let’s try and discover what these qualities are. We have already heard last week that these natural leaders seem to be able to bring out the best in those who follow them. Perhaps the easiest start would be to agree on what environment these leaders create.

The most common environment would be the family unit because it has been demonstrated many times before that the breakdown of society starts with the breakdown of the family unit which was one of the reasons given in Gibbons’ work titled “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. What we can easily observe are instances where the family unit collapses and here in SA we have ample evidence of this occurring. The apartheid regime was infamous for their forced breakdown of the indigenous peoples of Southern Africa’s family unit where the fathers and many mothers were forced to take on jobs as migrant labourers on the mines and big cities leaving the grandparents to look after the children in the rural areas.

This had dire consequences for these affected families where the children were often left leaderless and to their own devices. Equally devastating were privileged families left bereft when the family unit was left rudderless due to parents who didn’t provide the care and attention children needed in their formative years. What were the consequences? To begin with the first and most important deficiency was a lack of love, a lack of proper guidance and a feeling that no one cared. The result was so-called “problem children” whereas the problem was more the parents. These were children who got up to all sorts of mischief to gain attention and if not properly addressed, these children emulated poor role models and, in many cases, became addicted to drugs and alcohol and developed mental disorders.

In contrast to this negative behaviour, children who were the beneficiaries of good parenting (or good leadership) grew up well adjusted and balanced who often excelled in academia and sports and themselves became good role models for their peers. The vital ingredient here was the ever-present existence of a good and loving role model who through discipline, instilled through punishment of bad behaviour and reward for good behaviour, instilled a useful value system in their children. It sounds simple but it’s hard work. Doing what is good and useful requires constant vigilance and effort. The former is easy and punctuated by neglect and apathy and is often blamed on everything and everyone else except there the fault really lies and that’s in the absence of good care by the parent.

What should’ve become clear to us all it that we all play a leadership role, even older children are role models or leaders of their younger siblings. What should also be clear is that although some of us are blessed with a propensity to good leadership, the fact remains that for all of us it requires effort. The critical question that needs to be asked is how this is achieved. Socrates in his work on Laws provides some guidance. Not only should we all learn how to overcome physical fears through gaining physical mastery but we also need to learn to overcome pleasures because

“If our citizens grow up from their very childhood with no experience of the greatest pleasures, and become totally unpractised in enduring in the face of pleasures, and in resisting the urge to perform shameful acts, their weakness of spirit, when it comes to pleasures will place them in the same predicament as those who are overcome by fears. They will be enslaved in a different and even more shameful way, by people who are able to practise endurance in the face of pleasures and who have mastered the realm of pleasure, people who are sometimes thoroughly bad. The state of their own soul will be partly slave, partly free, and they will not be worthy of being hailed as courageous and free, without reservation.”

Next week we will look at how, by learning how to cope with pleasure and pain we can all become good leaders not only within the family but also at work and how to expand this to bigger leadership roles. One thing is certain and that is this world is crying out for good leadership.