During our BNC session this week, we talked about qualities that are important for leadership, discussing which of these was the most important and which was the least important.
The qualities we looked at were selflessness (which means that you care about other people over yourself), objectivity (which means that you are able to make decisions fairly without discrimination), integrity (which means acting with honesty and not making decisions based on how they will benefit you), openness (which means making decisions without holding things back), honesty (which means being truthful, regardless of the situation), being a role model (which means that you challenge poor behaviour when you come across it) and accountability (which means that you are ready to answer questions from those that you lead).
We didn’t manage to agree on which quality was most important! I think this is probably because we all admire different things in a leader and, actually, leadership style depends a lot on the situation. Good leaders can adapt to the situation, showing each of these qualities effectively when they need to.
We then tried really hard to think of an example of a leader who has shown all of these qualities. This was a difficult job because it is rare to find somebody who shows all of them all the time. However, we finally settled on Martin Luther King Jr.
- He demonstrated selflessness during his ‘I have a dream’ speech, where he focused on the needs of those around him rather than himself.
- He demonstrated objectivity throughout his time in the spotlight, treating people equally and speaking up to promote equality and to fight against discrimination.
- He demonstrated openness and honesty because he told people the truth (even though they might not have wanted to hear it at the time) and was very clear that he didn’t care about the consequences.
- He demonstrated integrity because he tried to make a difference without violence. He acted with honesty in everything he did and constantly talked about the benefits to others.
- He was a role model because he inspired (and continues to inspire) many people to stand up for what they believed in and to act honestly and openly when sharing their ideas.
- He demonstrated willingness to be accountable during his famous speech. There is also a quote of his that we came across in which he said, ”You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”
Can you think of any other leaders, past or present, who have demonstrated all of these key qualities? Is it important for leaders to have all of these skills or are some more important than others?