Churchill, Corbyn, Thatcher, Stalin, Napoleon, Philip Green, Beckham, Gandhi, Pol Pot, Che Guevara, Ernest Shackleton, all have something in common. In some form or other, or by someone or another,they have been seen as leaders.
I suggest that there are three types of ‘leaders’
1. Those that are appointed, anointed or elected eg heads of state, heads of organisations.
2. Those that inherit eg natural progression through an organisation.
3. Those that have carved their way through an organisation, such as by dint of personality ,and wisdom or other ‘personal combinations’ like personality and violence.
Anyone who goes on a course to learn leadership skills may in some quarters be defined as a leader. But, in my book, this does not qualify anyone as a leader anymore than someone who goes on a language course automatically becoming a linguist.
There are no doubt other types but I reckon that in general they are just subsections of the above.
If you ‘win’ a war but loose an election. If you are successful with one football club but not another. If you have been involved in a number of bankruptcies and then a successful venture does it make you any the less a leader?
Captains of industry, is a term often used to refer to the head honchos of major businesses. But I am not convinced this immediately makes them Leaders. I cannot consider that the likes of Philip Green is to be defined as a leader ( I will not apologise for not using his correct title, cos I don’t think it is his correct title). Some would argue he created a successful organisation employing thousands of people . I propose he created a vehicle to make as much dosh as possible. Nothing wrong with that. The acid test would be how many of his employees would follow him out of the trenches.
Politics is littered with the term ‘leader’. Leader of the opposition, leader of this group or that group, leader of the house, leader of a party, suggesting that most politicians are a leader of some sort. Whereas the truth lies nearer that very few of them are not, and those that have a variation of the title are there by a convoluted electoral process, including in some cases nobody actually wanting to do the job as it is toxic.
The media revels in headlines concerning weak or strong leaders without reference to the circumstances or the relative strength or weakness of the organisation they lead .
It’s unlikely that Alex Ferguson would have been a great leader of Southend United. Gandhi is unlikely to have created such a massive following if he had been brought up in Ireland. Bill Gates might never have created any empire if his parents had been farmers.
Some leaders are undoubtedly ‘born leaders’ . The likes of Genghis Khan, who was born to a family of leaders. Of course, he lead by fear, yet, according to historians, he was respected and those that who followed him, including the conquered, were well rewarded. The term ‘captains of industry’ was first used in the USA in the 19th century . It referred to commercial success but also philanthropy and attitude to the workforce . Latterly the term has been hijacked for those who only tick the commercial success box . For Captains of industry read more Bill Gates than Phillip Green (more robber baron, and that’s being very polite). I am not just picking on him, but he is very easy pickings.
‘Great’ leaders, such as Gandhi, Mandela, Napoleon, Churchill and Lincoln, were also seriously flawed. But often it is the flaw or flaws that make them ‘great’ in their time. Whether stubborn, vain, or just very focused, whatever their belief they were able to convince large numbers with similar beliefs that their path was the one to follow, and were the ones to follow .
I would suggest that the world’s current turmoil is aligned with a lack of leadership in many fields, industry, arts and media, spiritual guidance, and sport. Of course there are highly successful individuals in all walks of life but there are very few(currently I can’t think of any ) that large chunks of society would see as a true ‘leader ‘. So I can’t even begin to define something that currently does not exist in its true form. However, I feel that is, also, very disingenuous. I think there are many out there who are true leaders but operate in micro scenarios whether it is the coach of some local kids football team, or the manager of a small department in a large organisation, the leader of a local church, temple or mosque. These, and many others, are leaders who inspire and nurture those they lead. But they all keep their heads below the parapet. Society needs leaders that can be seen, in order to be inspired and nurtured, but I can’t see any…..
“Where have all the ‘leaders’ gone ?
(For anyone who might be interested the song was ‘where have all the flowers gone by Peter, Paul and Mary).