« Emmaus Road | Main | Jim Corbett: Tribute To A Master Story Teller - 1 »

Visions Of Hope: Leadership

"Leadership skills are increasingly needed in modern society,'' writes William Sykes, bringing inspiring words on the subject from the Bible and a number of great writers and thinkers.

Leadership—direction given by going in front, example; encourage by doing


During my time of National Service in Singapore, the brigadier decided to give a talk to the officers under his command on leadership. We were all summoned to appear at a certain location on a given day. The essence of his talk was the words of his motto: 'It all depends on me.' He explained that when we were alone in the jungle with our men, and things were verging on the impossible, the words we had to remember were: 'It all depends on me.' This would jolt us into action and we would get something done.

This worked in well with our original training on leadership at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot. Here we had been given a technique for making decisions in the field. First of all we had to 'make an appreciation of the situation'. This meant we had to identify our aim and objective. We then had to work out our strategy; how we were going to achieve our aim and objective. This meant in turn a consideration of factors to be taken into account. Having made an appreciation of the situation, identified our aim and objective, and worked out our strategy, we would then be in a position to give clear, concise orders, and take group action. We were then able to exercise effective practical leadership.

This might all sound simplistic, especially when compared with the leadership of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels, but it has helped me in practical ways since leaving the army, and might be of value to others. Leadership skills are increasingly needed in modern society.

Choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe.
Exodus 18:21

The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning. Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies: Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent in their instructions.
Ecclesiasticus 44:2-4 (AV)

Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.
Luke 22:26-27

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7

You taught me how to know the face of right.
William Shakespeare, King John, V. U. 88

A leader must have but one passion: for his work and his profession.
Andre Maurois, The Art of Living, The English Universities Press, 1940, page 160

The noblest mind he carries That ever govern'd man.
William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, I. i. 283

People think of leaders as men devoted to service, and by service they mean that these men serve their followers... The real leader serves truth, not people.
J.B. Yeats, Letters to his son, W.B. Yeats and others, Faber and Faber, 1944, page 218

Good leaders are aware of both their strengths and weaknesses. They are not afraid to admit to the latter. They know how to find support and are humble enough to ask for it. There is no perfect leader who has all the gifts necessary for good leadership.
Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1991, page 220

Leaders must take great care of those who have been given responsibility in the community and who for one reason or another (health, tiredness, lack of certain qualities, etc.) cannot exercise it well. Sometimes they must be relieved of their responsibility; in other cases, the leader must be more demanding and encourage them to do better. Much wisdom is needed here.
Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1991, page 219

After so much stress on the necessity of a leader to prevent his own personal feelings and attitudes from interfering in a helping relationship, it seems necessary to re¬establish the basic principle that no one can help anyone without becoming involved, without entering with his whole person into the painful situation, without taking the risk of becoming hurt, wounded or even destroyed in the process. The beginning and end of all Christian leadership is to give your lives for others.
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer, Doubleday, 1979, page 72

Organizations tend to put a premium upon a display of sheer activity or busyness and upon constant physical presence on the job. Yet the values which leadership peculiarly demands are not cultivated by a flurry of constant action. More thoughtful-ness, more chance for meditation, for serenity, for using one's imagination, for developing one's total personal effectiveness and poise, for being more straightfor¬wardly human with one's associates—these are required. And these values flourish where there is physical well-being. People who are going to lead have to be rested and fresh; they need time to think about the aims and the problems of their organization. And their working schedules should allow for this.
Ordway Tead, The Art of Leadership, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1935, page 87

The leader is one who knows with greater than average strength of intuition what he wants to get done and where he wants to go. 'The world stands aside to let pass the man who knows whither he is going.'
This means that he possesses clarity and precision as to the objectives, purposes or aims that he desires for himself and his group, and that he holds these deeply enough and permanently enough to see them well on the way to being
realized. Purposefulness to be effective requires that the aims are: (1) definite; (2) readily communicable to others; (3) potentially attractive to others; and (4) vigor¬ously, persistently and enthusiastically sustained by the leader.
Ordawy Tead, The Art of Leadership, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1935, page 94

The mere presence of a sound purpose is obviously not enough. It must be felt to be sound by all. In other words it must be surcharged with a dynamic emotion, with a hopefulness, with a will to win and an abounding, robust sense of joy in the job. It is something like this which is meant by enthusiasm. And this too is an essential attribute. It is important because it is contagious. Beyond a limited point it cannot be faked. Its genuineness is quickly sensed.
Where the leader has real vigour on the physical side and definiteness of objective on the mental side, enthusiasm is the normal offspring. This does not mean that enthusiasm cannot be deliberately increased. It means that its creation is a derived fact and that out from the springs of great energy and of deep intellectual conviction will pour that emotional exhilaration which is essential for arousing others.
Ordway Tead, The Art of Leadership, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1935, page 98

Many leaders are in the first instance executives whose primary duty is to direct some enterprise or one of its departments or sub-units...
It remains true that in every leadership situation the leader has to possess enough grasp of the ways and means, the technology and processes by means of which the purposes are being realized, to give wise guidance to the directive effort as a whole...
In general the principle underlying success at the coordinative task has been found to be that every special and different point of view in the group affected by the major executive decisions should be fully represented by its own exponents when decisions are being reached. These special points of view are inevitably created by the differing outlooks which different jobs or functions inevitably foster. The more the leader can know at first hand about the technique employed by all his group, the wiser will be his grasp of all his problems...
But more and more the key to leadership lies in other directions. It lies in ability to make a team out of a group of individual workers, to foster a team spirit, to bring their efforts together into a unified total result, to make them see the significance of the particular task each one is doing in relation to the whole.
Ordway Tead, The Art of Leadership, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1935, page 115

It is easy to be sentimental and rhetorical about the part which friendliness and affection play in the task of leadership. But it is hard to convey by mere written utterance how true it is that the good leader feels deeply and affectionately for those he leads...
One should be quite clear as to what affection is and why it is so potent a force. It is here taken to mean a state of sympathetic warmth of feeling, friendliness of attitude and conscious solicitude for the well-being and happiness of others. It is an attitude which gives sensitiveness to one's awareness as to the desires of others and the good of others, and creates an eagerness to help realize these.
The one who loves is incited by it to greater efforts to divine the wishes and aspirations of those loved and to behaviour which is at once considerate and discerning. Affection heightens sympathetic insight—or at least the effort in that direction.
Affection is therefore essential for the leader because it predisposes people toward being influenced. On the whole, individuals prefer to do and to be what they believe those who care for them want them to do and be. They then have something to live up to. They have at last a definite idea as to what is expected of them by someone who cares. And it brings them happiness to try to fulfil those expectations and to have the sense of communion which that brings. People thus get a sense that they are needed and everyone wants the support of feeling themselves necessary to someone or to some cause.
Ordway Tead, The Art of Leadership, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1935, page 102

Almost every study of the secret of the successful leader has agreed that the possession of a generous and unusual endowment of physical and nervous energy is essential to personal ascendancy. Those who rise in any marked way above the mass of men have conspicuously more drive, more sheer endurance, greater vigour of body and mind than the average person. The leader's effectiveness is in the first instance dependent upon his basic constitutional strength and robustness.
The subtle ways in which one person vitalizes another are closely related to the possession of this endowment. Energy seems to be imparted and to be drawn out of others by an effective show of energy. The leader's energy begets energy in the followers. The existence of abounding vigour goes far toward making the leader crave to work for significant purposes, and toward producing that total mobilized zeal we call enthusiasm. Each of us knows in our day-to-day life how our working effectiveness and ability to expend effort fluctuate with our physical and nervous condition. Sluggishness, apathy, chronic fatigue, routine execution—these are foes of good leadership which only abounding energy can keep at bay.
The leader also must recognize that his job is more demanding than the average. Strength literally goes out from him. Leading is hard work. It usually requires more average working hours than are given by others. It often requires sustained, concentrated effort; it requires occasional emergency demands which must be able to draw on physical reserves of strength and endurance. By his enthusiasm the leader makes unusual demands upon himself. Leading means a generous lavishing of energy which is abnormally taxing.
Ordway Tead, The Art of Leadership, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1935, page 83


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.