DP Column 3.1.2014: Leadership

While most look for a ‘fresh’ start to our new year, for others, it’s simply another day in their life journey. While the following piece may not be a normal DP column post, it is a short piece on how we should develop a greater change from the top-down and bottom-up. Below is my brief reflection on leadership I was asked to complete for module 14 of the LEP program offered at Western University.

Leadership: a key to the future.

The Leadership Education Program (“LEP”) program has taught me leadership isn’t necessarily a trait, but a quality you inherit. By performing tasks, activities and pro-active measures, you learn to build the qualities we see in a leader.

When asked who a leader is, you tend to look no further than your patriarchal figure. Whether they are your mother or father, you associate with their leadership qualities, not their traits. Leadership traits tend to be over-emphasized and commercialized by media outlets in order to exemplify a leader’s role. Broadly speaking, it’s not dissimilar to defining the meaning of life, the definition of a leader is not only subjective but few well-thought definitions stand to be corrected.

I would define a leader as being, ‘someone who has learned to become one through the experience, integrity and authority one builds upon’. Akin to many definitions, my definition however incomplete, defines the key qualities I feel a leader must experience and educate themselves on. In the example of a patriarchal figure, the way only few individuals can immediately ride a bicycle, few parents get parenting right their first time. A parent’s inherent leadership quality must be developed over time, something usually mistaken at face value as a trait. By accepting responsibility and parenting the best way they know how, they become what we see as leaders through their experience, integrity and authority.

In Marx Weber’s lecture ‘Politics as a Vocation’, Weber defines three types of leaders: traditional, charismatic and legal. Today, politician’s aim to appear having all three traits without displaying their definitive qualities. A politician need not be a ‘leader’ within their leadership role. Therefore, it’s simply misguided to assimilate a leader with a political figurehead. By simply assuming their leadership role during their time in politics as a vocation, they do not require true leadership qualities if they were in politics for a vocation.

I feel both tier 1 & 2 modules wrap themselves around the role of the individual in given circumstances. It’s an effective way to get the students to get the ‘ball rolling’ in their path to becoming a leader. With tier 3 set-up to take what we have learnt and begin the real learning process.

In-line with laissez-faire ‘trickle-down’ economics, as more students learn LEP related material, the highly integrated globalized world we have today will have a healthier and more sustainable future. As more individuals learn to become leaders on their own, the current pool of acceptable candidates to fill leadership roles will become a pool of great candidates for the future. In turn, the ‘trickle-down’ effects of better leaders will result in better policies and infrastructure to create a positive social change.

Being mindful of the way our industrial revolution ended without much notice, we are still in the rush towards an information age. Before we label our current era as the ‘digital revolution’, our future leaders must take note of minimizing the accumulation of shallow knowledge and work towards building upon the three main qualities of my leadership definition. As the information age become relatively ‘smarter’, our future leaders will need to differentiate themselves by being relatively ‘better educated’, an education one can only teach themselves. This education is a learning process through the accumulation of experience, integrity and authority.

As we move towards a ‘better educated’ society, the great thinkers of our time like Noam Chomsky will become better appreciated. Our future leaders must remain conscious of Rudi Mantofani, an Indonesian contemporary artist who says, “The World needs great countries, not strong country”.


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