By Pedro Brizuela
Organization of Community and Ethnic Development (ODECO)
Editor’s Note: This essay appears in the textbook for the School of Leaders in Honduras. Read more about the school in this related story.
Facing the Question of Leadership
It has long been said that a leader isn’t born, but made. The emergence of leadership is a social phenomenon since it surges from the heart of the people in the heat of popular struggles for the most heartfelt needs of the population. Leaderships comes from study and from the spirit that comes from addressing the public’s needs.
A leader is a person who is conscious of those social, economic, political and cultural needs of the society he and she share. That’s why the leader keeps his and her eye on the people’s freedom because freedom is the conquest of human needs. This person is a conductor for the freedom of the people. His and her role in history comes because he and she see farther ahead than most and deeply feel the suffering of his and her people, whose necessities are extreme due to misery, ignorance and injustice, which compliment each other in the cycle of repression.
A leader has a heavy responsibility with history. That’s why his and her characteristics should have the following:
a) A leader should address the true problems of society in search of collective solutions.
b) A leader studies the origins and causes of those problems.
c) A leader must facilitate, orient and conduct those that work with him and her.
d) A leader must maintain a close relationship with the people in the context of the social goals persued.
e) A leader must learn by doing and avoid bureaucracy.
f) A leader should have a plain understanding of the reality in which she and he operates.
g) A leader must obtain a wide understanding of culture.
h) He and she must be honest, simple and in solidarity, rejecting opportunist vices and other manifestations of that nature.
i) A leader always works so that his and her social or political movement maintains the highest level of unity in action.
j) A leader makes alliances with movements that share at least some important aspects with his and her own.
k) A leader must be a specialist in the matters of his and her movement.
l) A leader must confront reality in a critical, objective and creative manner.
m) A leader must have firm and decisive politics to address conflict.
n) She and he must be attentive, respectful of the opinions of others, know how to listen and to respond.
o) A leader must avoid all acts that have the vice of intrigue. He and she should refrain from opining on matters that he and she do not know about.
p) A leader constantly strengthens the friendships and solidarity between his partners in struggle and between them and the people.
q) A leader is honest and transparent in his and her actions, disciplined and loyal to his and her principles.
r) A leader must carry his and her principles and human values with him and her. His and her words must not be divorced from his and her deeds.
s) A leader never abandons the fundamental goals of his and her social, political or cultural movement.
t) A leader practices and defends the democratic aspirations of the people.
u) A leader knows how to make and receive criticism.
The Differences Between a Leader and a Boss
A leader and a boss have many differences in how they behave around others:
-For the boss, his and her authority is a privilege of power, while for the leader it is a gift of service.
* The boss orders, “I’m in charge here.” The leader thinks, “I serve here.”
* The boss pushes the group while the leader stimulates it, conducting it.
* The boss rests on the authority delegated to him and her by superiors. The leader is driven by his and her conscience.
* The boss inspires fear. The leader inspires confidence and respect. That’s why you fear your boss, while you love your leader.
* The boss looks for someone to blame when something goes wrong.
* The leader stimulates correction of the error.
* The boss shouts, scolds, looks for who to blame while the leader corrects and stimulates the betterment of his and her colleagues, since it is better to make a mistake while acting than to fail to act out of fear of making a mistake.
* The boss assigns tasks, obligations and duties, ordering each individual on what he and she should be doing while observing whether they obey or not. The leader leads by example, working alongside his colleagues, her and his words match his and her deeds because understanding what to do is the best form of speaking.
* The boss does work that is a job, the leader undertakes activities that are a privilege.
* The boss knows how things must be done. The leader teaches how they should be done.
* The boss guards and protects the secrets to success. The leader makes sure everyone learns them in order to achieve success.
* The boss manages the people, the leader conducts them toward the shared goal.
* The boss privatizes while the leader socializes.
* The boss looks at his collaborators as numbers or chits, the leader sees them as a work team that he belongs to in egalitarian conditions.
* The boss says “go do it,” the leader says “let’s go do it.”
* The leader is a compass: he fosters real commitment from all the members, formulates plans with clear goals, motivates, supervises and promotes the ideal of hope.
* The leader has a clear vision of what he and she want and the mission to achieve it.
* The boss arrives late. The leader gets there early or on time.
* The leader makes ordinary people into extraordinary ones who commit themselves to the established mission in a way that allows for the peoples’ transcendence and fulfillment. He and she give his collaborators another reason to live.
* A leader is extraordinary. There is nothing common or bland about him and her.
The 21 indispensable qualities of a leader
Character: Leadership is the ability and will to conduct men and women in a common purpose and to have the character that inspires trust. Never deny your own experience and convictions to keep the peace.
Charisma: The first impression can be determinative. How can a person have charisma? Worry more about making others feel good about themselves than about whether they feel good about you.
Commitment: This is what separates the doers from the dreamers.
People do not follow leaders who lack commitment. Commitment can be demonstrated in a wide range of aspects that include the hours one chooses to dedicate to the work, whether one works to better his and her own abilities and what you do for your compañeros even when it involves self sacrifice.
He and she who has done what is best for his and her own time lives for all time.
Communication: Without it, you travel alone.
To develop excellent communication skills is essential for effective leadership. The leader has to be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others.
Educators take something simple and make it complicated. Communicators take something complicated and make it simple.
Ability: If you develop yourself, others will see the best in you.
Ability goes beyond words. It is the ability of a leader to say it, plan it, and do it in a manner that others notice that you know how and they will join you in it through to meeting the final goal.
Courage: One person with courage makes for a majority.
“Courage is correctly seen as the highest of human qualities… because it is what guarantees everything else.” – Winston Churchill
Discernment: Finish unsolved puzzles.
“Intelligent leaders believe only half of what they hear. Leaders with discernment know which half to believe.” – John C. Maxwell
Focus: The sharper your focus the smarter you’ll be.
If you chase two rabbits, both escape.
“What people say, what people do and what people say they do are completely different things.” – Margaret Mead
Generosity: Your candle loses no light when it illuminates others.
“Nobody receives honors for what they give. Honor is the reward for what one gives.” – Calvin Coolidge
“Giving is the highest calling of life.” – John C. Maxwell
Initiative: Don’t leave home without it.
“Success seems to be related to action. Successful people are active. They make mistakes but they don’t give up. (An intelligent man is not one who makes no errors but, rather, one who upon making them corrects them well and quickly)” – Conrad Hilton
“Of all the things that a leader should be afraid of, complacency should be the first.” – John C. Maxwell
Listening Skills: To connect with hearts use your ears.
“The ear of a leader has to vibrate with the voices of the people.” – Woodrow Wilson
“A good leader stimulates others to tell him what he needs to know, not what he wants to hear.” – John C. Maxwell
Passion: Take life by the horns and love it.
“When a leader expresses himself with passion, he generally finds passionate response.” – John C. Maxwell
“Anybody can do things superficially but once one has made a promise, there is something in the blood and it is very difficult to stop.” – Bill Cosby
Positive Attitude: If you believe you can, you can.
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can change their lives just by changing their attitudes.” – William James
“A successful person is one that can construct a firm foundation from bricks that others have thrown away.” – David Brinkley
Problem Solving: You can’t let your problems become a problem.
A leader isn’t measured by the problems he tackles. He always looks for problems his own size.
The measure of success is not if you have a difficult problem to resolve but, rather, whether it is the same problem you had last year.
Cultivating Relationships: If you take initiative, they will imitate you.
The most important ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to relate to the people.
To the people, it doesn’t matter how much you know, but, rather, that what you know is interesting to them.
Responsibility: If you don’t bring the ball you can’t lead the team.
Success at any level requires that you take responsibility. In the end, the only quality that a successful person has is the ability to be responsible. A leader can abandon anything except for responsibility.
Self Confidence: No one can be a good leader if he wants to do it all the same way or obtain credit for doing it.
Self Discipline: The first person you need to lead is you.
“The first great victory is the conquest of the self.” – Plato
An indecisive man can never say he is in charge of himself. He belongs to anyone that can capture him.
Service: To progress, put others first.
The true leader serves. He serves the people. She serves their best interests and in doing so isn’t always going to be popular, and may not always impress: But since true leaders are motivated by love more than desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.
Learning: To keep on leading, keep on learning (learn by doing).
Listening and reading should take up about ten times more hours than talking. This guarantees that you are in a process of continued apprenticeship and self betterment.
Vision: You can only achieve what you can see.
The value of a great leader to comply with his vision comes from passion, not from position. The future belongs to those who see the possibilities before they become obvious.
Note: The order of these qualities does not indicate their priority because… they’re all priorities!