What Makes a Good Leader

By Peter Worman

I am sure that many of you, like myself, have pondered on what makes a good leader, how do they act and what makes leaders effective. I have lived under the leadership of many people throughout my life and I’m afraid very few have made an impact. One of the few leaders that comes to mind is a man I reported to at one of previous jobs. Despite him being some 10 years younger than I was, there was something about him that I respected, and I have often tried to work out what this was.

Mindful of this, I decided to investigate this over the following few weeks, and to discuss leadership, what a leader does, what qualities do they reflect and can leadership be taught. Plato discussed many leadership issues in his dialogue “The Statesman” and separated the Statesman off from the pretenders who could talk the talk but could not walk the walk (to use a modern idiom).

Some of the current opinions on leadership and what qualities they should possess are as follows:

  • Integrity – honest and strong moral principles
  • Ability to delegate – allowing others the freedom to function with minimum supervision
  • Communication – the ability to express ideas clearly
  • Self-awareness – this is open to interpretation and needs to be fully debated
  • Gratitude – the opposite of arrogance
  • Learning agility – being able to absorb concepts easily and accurately. This point also needs further elucidation
  • Influence – A rare quality
  • Empathy – another rare quality of being able to put yourself in other’s shoes but it does have a subtler meaning and scope.

These points are largely applied to the workplace, sporting teams, government, and orthodox religion but few learning institutions apply their minds to one’s inner leadership.

The prevailing principle of the discussions is that they are intended to be interactive, and their success will depend on your participation. Furthermore, note that this isn’t a conventional course on leadership but is based on a Socratic approach using dialectic question and answer to arrive at the Truth or underlying guiding principles innate in this creation.

To get things going I would like to get your thoughts on leadership in general and it would be useful for you all to consider who, in your opinion, displayed excellent leadership and why. In this way we can, through questioning our ideas and opinions, get to a clearer understanding of true leadership by examining some of the commonly held ideas as to what constitutes leadership and by a process of discrimination or dialectic, (accepting what is true and lasting and rejecting what is false and temporary.