By Heather Folsom
There is no doubt that a lot of emphasis is placed on leadership qualities today. However, this is nothing new. If my school history lessons were anything to go by it seems that it is the leaders that we learn most about. Many people believe that the world is divided into two types of people, the leaders and the followers. I don't agree with this statement to be honest as I think that everyone has some sort of leadership ability that can be realized with some guidance and coaching.
To help explain what I mean I go back to my school days again. There seemed to be a general feeling amongst our staff that everyone should aspire to be a leader in whatever field we decided to follow for a career. The leadership skills needed vary greatly depending on what it was that we wanted to be when we grew up.
I think the greatest myth was that a bossy person was exhibiting leadership skills if they had the power to tell others what to do and their orders would be obeyed. There were a number of students like this but I never saw their ability as a sign of great leadership, more a definite sign of bullying. It is true that some of the great leaders of our time have been close to being bullies but that is not a leadership quality that I aspired to.
I seriously think that one of the greatest leadership qualities to have is that of leading by example. This doesn't mean that you try to do everything yourself but guide those around you to perform the same task that you are. This was most aptly demonstrated in sports teams. The team captain had to be able to encourage the rest of her team to get the very best out of them and would lead by example in such a way that the rest of the team respected and valued her leadership. The cross country running captain, for example, would encourage the rest of the squad to keep up with her but also know when to fall back and let another take the lead. This highlighted another leadership quality that I believe is important and that is selflessness. If you are a worthy leader then you are able to step back and encourage another to take the lead. You have to be able to let someone else in your team, no matter what arena it is in, work or school, to shine. One of the most important leadership skills is to recognize the strengths of the people around you.
So, I would not think of an army sergeant who barks orders at his soldiers as being a strong leader but the General who actually gets involved with his army and does not sit back and take all the glory does show the leadership qualities that I most admire. The most admirable and effective leadership qualities are those that command respect and trust while being able to get the best out of those that you are leading.