This is a billion dollar question with no straight forward answer. If it had a straight forward answer, the world today would be a much better, safer, and desirable place. The answer is ambiguous and we get different answers from different people. Internally, every individual thinks he/she is a leader or at least has the capacity to be a leader if given a chance. Everyone has the desire to lead at some point in life. Some give up, while others continue to pursue till the last minute. If the answer to the question was clear, many would probably never try to be a leader following their self-assessment. I would like to try to search for an answer to this question. The answer is again my version – I am sure many of you may disagree with it or may appreciate it. There is no single quality that makes someone a leader. That would be like trying to simplify the answer by saying “someone with leadership quality is a leader.”
I believe the following attributes are essential in a good leader:
1. Decision Making
Making decision requires the guts and readiness to bear with failures. Many people stay with the status quo worrying about the consequences the changes they introduce can bring. Those people never learn and never grow. Leaders who make decisions (and all decision cannot always be good) make the environment around them vibrant and active. Lack of decision making brings passiveness and makes working place unattractive and unexciting. Decision makers will have the opportunity to learn from bad decisions and excel from good ones. Such leaders are considered as strong leaders and they will have many supporters when they need them. Leaders have to be ready for the consequence that one bad decision might sink their company / institution / nation or they might even be fired. Therefore, enough home work and thorough thinking is mandated prior to making any decision.
2. Not giving up
For many people, the easiest thing is to give up. Perseverance is a common trait among people we meet everyday. Many of us simply give up and get to doing new things. That’s why only a few of us get to the top and get to lead others. When we try new stuff, we first meet resistance against it from our near and dear ones. Our spouses will be against us when we try new things and will ask us to give up if something seems to be not working to them. Not to quit is very difficult. True leaders want to get to the bottom of something they have started before giving up. Getting to the bottom and all the way to the end makes us smarter and seasoned for future undertakings. People like leaders who believe in something they (leaders) have started and do not show frequent on and off mentality. In brief, determination and not giving up makes someone a strong leader.
A leader runs a business or a nation. In other words, he/she needs to be fair – being kind is easy but being fair is difficult. True leaders can’t promise everything to everyone. Reward has to be based on performance and output. Otherwise, there is no difference between a Mao and a truly capitalist leader who cares for outputs and results. A fair leader is not one who treats everyone equally but rather who treats all fairly. Free riders must be warned and even punished if they fail to comply.
Wow, I love this one. This is a teaching from my grandfather – the most beautiful thing is to be polite to all. Politeness always wins. This is the most powerful tool of a leader. A polite person is appreciated by everyone. It is so easy to be polite. Still, many of us do not pay attention to it. I want all who read this blog to try to be polite. Many leaders turn arrogant and dismissive and forget their very roots. They may win – but such victories will be temporary. If we as a leader want to have a long lasting positive impact, we must be polite. I always remember a saying from my grandfather that “a hundred years from this moment, everyone in this earth with will be dead, why don’t we try to be polite?” A good leader has to make a lot of harsh decisions. They can do so being polite and humble. Impolite and rude people can’t be a successful leader.
4. Flexibility vs. Rigidity
There needs to be a balance between flexibility and rigidity. A leader needs to be able to exhibit flexibility and show rigidity based on circumstances and needs. Too flexible leaders may be perceived as weak and too rigid leaders may be perceived as autocratic and not being down to earth. As perception is reality, leaders must learn to create a balance between flexibility and rigidity. This is a very delicate balance. I remember my mother here. I appreciate how beautifully she played a balanced role when I was kid. She had no formal education, but she knew how to be balanced. I learned from her that letting others feel that they are winning is the most powerful thing. This is the desired balance between flexibility and rigidity. I apply this even with my four old daughter Mahika and it works. I make her feel that she wins every time she has an argument or discussion. Only people who know how to create a balance between rigidity and flexibility can do this. I am not perfect in this either. I have seen people way better than me on this. Please try – we all can do this.
5. Listening to others
A person who dismisses others and does not listen can’t be a successful leader. The ability to listen to others criticizing you is very powerful. Also, the ability to take appreciation gracefully is required too. Many people feel shy and can’t maintain eye contact when they are appreciated and praised. A good leader can say “thank you, I am honored” for deserving appreciation and can deny undeserving praise by saying “thank you, but I do not deserve that.” Those who do not listen to others can hardly get better. Listening makes one wiser and helps one rid of arrogance if one has any. It is difficult for arrogant people to listen to others. I want you all try to listen to others. It is a very difficult job. Let others open up which we can make only by listening to them. We all appreciate when we are heard with interest. True leaders must have ability to listen no matter how junk it may be.
6. Respect and care
More satisfying than getting respect is giving others the respect they deserve. Those who do not respect others cannot be trusted to lead. Leaders need to feel others’ pain and have willingness to respect and care for others. True leaders do not expect respect; they rather give respect and care to others. I would like to quote a personal story here. After my high school graduation, a close family friend of mine (then police inspector and current Assistant Inspector General), Amar Singh Shah offered me an opportunity to tutor the son of the then home minister, Nain Bahadur Swanr. Amar took me to the minister’s home. We reached there and waited in the corridor for a while. The minister came our. Amar introduced me as a sharp student capable of tutoring his son. The minister looked at me up and down. I obviously look young, thin and poor. He dismissed me and Amar. His remark was “my son will never listen to this village boy (pakhe).” That was one of the days that I was humiliated the most. That minister had no respect for others. I would be interested to know about what Nain Bahadur and his son are doing now. God bless Nepal that we were being led by such leaders and we are still.
7. Taking Responsibility and Giving Credit
Very few people can openly accept their mistakes and say “I screwed up.” Those of us who can say “I screwed up” will always gain respect and further empower ourselves and be ready for more challenges. Only those who have the courage to accept mistakes and defeats can take challenges. It is by accepting defeats and mistakes that we become more mature. True leaders always try to find someone else to give credit to when successes happen. Bad leaders take all the credit and never mention others who contributed to the success. Good leaders look into the mirror and take responsibility when there are failures. Bad leaders look out to the window and try to find somebody else to blame in case of failures. In case of success, good leaders look to the past and try to find the person to give credit to. Good leaders never try to take credit when there is success.
8. Sense of Humor
Those who can’t laugh and who can’t make others laugh will have difficulty leading. People with a sense of humor can ease difficult situations. Life is too short. I remember my mother saying to me “do not take it to seriously, have some fun. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Your father died when he was 35.” I try to be funny every minute. I suggest those of who want to lead to cultivate a sense of humor. People love those who can make them laugh and help them forget day-to-day phenomenon – which is bread and butter for most of us.
9. Mixing up and Extrovert
Good leaders can mix up with all kinds of people and can be among themselves. You cannot lead unless you are open and make others feel that you are one of them. No human being wants to be led by an animal. Those who stay aloof and treat themselves as if they are from a different class should not even dream of being a leader.
10. Thank you
This is the last but the most powerful of all. True leaders must thank all involved every day and every minute. Please remember that you are a leader because of others – not because of what you are. Alone you are nothing – I mean – nothing at all. A leader is a leader because of others. A leader must be thankful to those who make them leader. Gratitude is the most essential quality of a good leader.
This is my very rudimentary thinking. You all know that I am not yet a true leader. I make mistakes everyday. I am a follower. I love to get feedback from my fellow bloggers. I appreciate your feedback. I want to learn from you all.