Three individuals have been in the news the past few weeks - each from different walks of life. Each considered outstanding leaders. I wanted to have a closer look at what qualities each possessed for people to consider them great, since the topic of leadership is one that is perhaps the most written about in management literature.
So what do we look for in a leader of an organization, be it a company, political party or a social movement? How important is a good leader to an organization? I think most will agree that a company that has a strong front line staff, is wasted, if there isn't someone there to lead them towards a common goal.
All of the below have any number of "great leader" skills, but these were the qualities that stood out for me.
Approachable personality: Recently deceased NDP leader Jack Layton had many strong attributes, but one that was frequently written about at the time of his funeral was how open and approachable he was as a politician. During the most recent campaign, he was voted the leader most Canadians would want to sit down and have a beer with. A good leader can dialogue with people on a variety of levels and make them feel like their voices are heard in the organization. Many ordinary people who came to pay their respects during the funeral spoke of how Mr. Layton's values and causes spoke to them.
Visionary: Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple, recently stepped down from his post as CEO due to health problems. A lengthy article in a recent Globe and Mail article entitled "Right up there with Edison and Ford: He may have been the best boss or the worst, but Jobs earned his place in the pantheon of great industrialists" by David Ebner (August 26, 2011, p A3) describes a man who founded 2 successful companies (Pixar the other), who had a vision of where he wanted to take Apple. He was an inventor, who personally held over 300 patents, including 85 iPod and iPod related items, and despite being accused of being a micro-manager, made stellar hiring choices and motivated his company into dominating the market. His favorite quote is of Canadian Wayne Gretzky: "I skate where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been".
Inspirational: Late August marked the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. To commemorate the event, a statue of Dr. King was unveiled honoring this event and his legacy. His electrifying speech, almost 50 years after being given, still gives one goosebumps in its soaring oratory and inspirational message. It gave voice to the civil rights movement. It is still studied today in classrooms as an example of motivational speech.
Want to read up on these leaders or on leadership in general? Check out these books available at the Toronto Public Library. The system has many books on leadership.
“Leadership demands vision to see the path before us, the courage to take it and the strength to follow it.” Dr. Jeff Turnbull, outgoing president of the Canadian Medical Association.