February 19, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 78  

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Leader of the pack: what makes up effective leadership ability?

By Kelly Marcella
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. ESPOUSED THE ARTICULATION AND VISION OF A STRONG LEADER. Few speakers have matched the fervour and passionate goals of King since his death.

With all this talk of leadership, the question still begs to be answered. What exactly is it that makes a good leader?

Is it charisma or efficiency? Perhaps good leaders are people who delegate tasks or maybe it’s those who choose to do the work themselves. Articulation, confidence, motivation, passion — the list is endless.

Amidst all these qualities, is there some underlying essence of good leadership? Is leadership something learned or inherent in your personality? Is there even an effective or qualitative way of assessing strong leadership abilities?

Many seem to assume leadership can be learned, with endless job seminars and preparation courses on how to improve leadership skills. But there is such a thing as a born or natural leader — some people are just able to take active control over a situation and direct a positive outcome.

According to the Canadian Leadership Corporation, “the essence of a great leader is a vision for a desirable future result.” Without a doubt, someone who leads must provide some overarching goal which followers can relate and strive towards. Some of the greatest leaders of the modern world transcended multiple boundaries primarily through the articulation of their personal visions; Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech speaks directly to his dream for America’s future.

Obviously, leaders require followers, and the key to great leadership is in respecting those who provide support. “There is a personal bond between the leader and each follower. Depending on the number of followers, it may not be possible for the leader to actually know each and every follower, but each follower must believe that there would be a personal bond if they were to meet,” the CLC says.

Leaders provide ample opportunity for supporters to develop their own ideas and strategies, and help direct actions through the most efficient means to achieving goals, the CLC adds. Whether it is through delegation or personal action, leaders must be able to direct and realize a concrete outcome.

There is a precarious balance maintained between idealist and realist concepts as it pertains to leaders. Providing goals and vision has to be supported through some sort of practical and concrete directive — blowing hot air at people will only carry someone so far.

But the first questions still remain unanswered. Leaders arise for many different reasons and through diverse means. It seems almost impossible to develop a general outline of a perfect leader. There are very public leaders and advocates, such as politicians and activists, and there are those people who lead simply through actions in their own lives. While King preached civil rights to the public, Rosa Parks led by example through a single action as part of her regular day.

The contrast between styles of leadership is so wide ranging that leadership remains an elusive concept. Some leaders are born out of their own situations, some seem to be naturally fitted to direct others, while others develop the confidence and flair to take charge through maturity.

Leaders will be leaders, it’s human nature — we just have to remember to make sure we are following the right people.
—with files from www.canlead.com



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