By Sam Bradley
Many studies have been done on leadership and, countless philosophers and theorists have attempted to discover its secrets. Following suit, I submit this list of characteristics that I believe make a great leader.
A leader is a person with confidence in him/her self and their ability. They cannot be one dimensional, as true leadership is not refined to any context or situation. Rather, leaders need to have the confidence to lead in a variety of situations. They should constantly be testing their skills by leading new challenges and completing unique tasks. True leadership cannot be learned, it cannot be bought and it certainly cannot be faked.
Having an older and wiser mentor to guide a person through difficult times is essential to every leader; having the humility to learn from that mentor – that is wisdom. The path to achieving greatness as a leader involves recognising that we all make mistakes that we can learn from, and that we don’t have all the answers all the time.
To be a leader in this Rainbow Nation of ours is not an easy task. Coming from such a splintered past, a true leader of the new South Africa prioritises racial harmony. This leader accepts all beliefs, embraces all cultures, learns all languages and calls each man brother. This leader recognises that every person has unique skills and talents, and only when those skills are harnessed together in a team is everyone’s true potential fully realised.
Our generation — often referred to as the ‘lost generation’ — is in desperate need of spiritual guidance. The leaders of today are the moral compass for the people of tomorrow. Now more than ever, leaders need to be blameless and completely above reproach. The leader of tomorrow needs to stand for honour and integrity. Actions need to be transparent, as winning the trust of the public is needed to succeed as a leader.
A leader is someone who is always pushing themselves onwards and upwards. Leaders relish new challenges and opportunities to test their skills in new and unique ways. No leader will become a leader by following in the footsteps of others – it is up to each leader to forge their own path. As written by Spanish poet Antonio Machado “Traveller, there is no path, only the wakes of ships upon the ocean.”
As the discerning reader would have noticed, the anagram shows that a true leader is a CHIEF.
Mr Mandela, as we honour you and your accomplishments on Mandela day, we note that you have been an inspirational leader that encapsulates all of these characteristics. Your life and accomplishments will forever leave an imprint over our land and over our history.
As we gaze into the future (some of us with hope, some with trepidation and all with curiosity) the question is: “who will lead us forward?”. The past has given us an army of great leaders to emulate, and the future gives us the opportunity to join their ranks. The future is there, and it is there to be seized. If we don’t, who will?
Sam Bradley is a One Young World delegate who is representing the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica).