Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Q. Who is a great contemporary leader? Why are they a great leader? For those of you who have read Oedipus, what does he teach us about leadership? What is leadership? What qualities does a leader possess? How can you persuade people to be the best leader they can be?

A. I'm choosing your last question to answer because this answer can be applied to your other questions. You cannot persuade people to be the best leader they can be. A person can only make that decision for him/herself and that tells us a lot about the nature of leadership.

Leadership is about taking responsibility for one's own actions and holding oneself accountable for their results. Anything else results in manipulating what others do or blaming them for what you perceive to be unsatisfactory results.

Leadership shows up in too many ways to be much more definable, ways that are dependent upon the personality of the leader and their circumstances. This is why it is impossible to identify a person who is an effective leader in all aspects of their lives - an exemplar.

Think of those "great" politicians, actors, sport-speople and other public figures who are admired so widely until the inevitable sex, drinking, racist or corruption "scandal." The same goes for all those "great" industrialists who we now discover built their wealth (and that of their stockholders) at the cost of our environment.

Of course, us regular folk have have our successes and failures too! Taking responsibility for one's actions and accepting accountability for one's results, i.e. accepting one's humanity, is a challenge for all of us. This requires a certain kind of humility and, if you consider the people you observe to be leaders, I expect that's a quality you will find.

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