Friday, May 30, 2008

June 2, 2008—Great Leaders Have the Same Qualities


Consider This for June 2, 2008—Great Leaders Have the Same Qualities

Last Wednesday morning before I flew back to the United States I spent some time in the El Banco Central Museo in Cuenca, Ecuador looking at the history of that southern Andes city.

There is one floor where the former leaders of the country are presented. There are portraits of the presidents and the founders including Simon Bolivar. There are displays of uniforms and military paintings. All of this is described in detail on plaques next to the displays.

As I read the information I was struck with the similarities between what was happening in Ecuador in the 19th Century and what was going on in the United States during the same period. As a historian I would depict it as the period of unrest following the original revolution.

There is a management theory that describes it best. It is used for groups and organizations but can be used for countries too including the United States and Ecuador or for that matter all of the countries in the western hemisphere during this period.

The stages are called “Forming, Storming and Norming.” You can find it described in various terms but it really relates to the birthing of a nation, the forming of a group, a company or an idea.

I also considered the character and personality of the original leaders of Ecuador as compared to the original leaders of the United States.

As a point of disclaimer before someone wants to complain about what I am going to say, I do not present this as an original thought or idea. I do not lay claim to any of this as it has taken me years of reading and listening to many authors to come to some of my conclusions.

I doubt if any one author would agree with my thesis but many would and can find their own theories in what I have to say.

Great leaders have certain common characteristics.

Great leaders have a passion for leadership. They have found their passion and have learned to focus on that passion. They have a vision for the future and a plan on how to achieve that vision. Great leaders are all very intelligent. They are all excellent politicians within and without their group.

They have visions. And yes I am saying that they see things that no one else can see. They can see into the future. They know what is around the next turn without having anyone tell them.

Mediocre leaders are reactionary. They wait for a problem to present itself and then work to solve that problem at the moment. They are not forward thinking. They are part of the problem and not part of the solution. They do not consider the future. They can only see just past the end of their nose.

One of the very best examples of what I am talking about would be a study of famous generals. Few are in the first category and most are in the second group. I am not going to name names but you get my point. Most of the generals in the second group ended up losing major battles or actually getting killed in the process. Many of the generals in the first group went on to become presidents or world leaders in other capacities. You can name them as well as I can.

I would also say that the great leaders are also found in sports or industry. They all have the same qualities and would never have achieved their goals without those basic characteristics.

I thought about all of this as I studied the information about the former leaders of Ecuador and what made them great leaders.

Later that day I was watching CNN International in English in my home in Cuenca and considered each of the candidates for President of the United States. Can we believe that John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have those qualities of great leaders? Or how many ex-presidents can you think of who had those qualities.

Think about what I have said and then hold each candidate up to the light and ask that same question. Great leaders can be great politicians but great politicians are not always great leaders.

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