WHEN GOD saw the misery of His people in Egypt, He asked Moses to lead them out of the clutch of Pharaoh.
“I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt,” God told Moses. At first, Moses declined. “Who am I?” he asked. But God insisted, “Lead my people.” And that was what terrified Moses: to lead the people out of Egypt and he never had any experienced at all. “A leader,” says Dr. John C. Maxwell, the leading authority on leadership, “is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”
Leonard Ravenhill in The Last Days Newsletter, shares the story of a group of tourists who were visiting a picturesque village. As they walked by an old man sitting beside a fence, one tourist asked in a patronizing way, “Were any great men born in this village?”
The old man looked at the tourist who inquired and told him bluntly: “Nope, only babies.” In other words, leadership is developed, not discovered. The truly “born leader” will always emerge; but, to stay on top, natural leadership characteristics must be developed.
So, what are some of the traits that a great leader must develop? First and foremost, he must have a character.
A scorpion, being a poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. “Are you mad?” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”
“My dear turtle,” laughed the scorpion, “if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you.
Now, where is the logic in that?” The turtle agreed, “You’re right. Hop in.” The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river the scorpion gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said, “Do you mind if I ask you something?
You said there’d be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?” “It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion sadly replied. “It’s just my character.” “Nearly all men can withstand adversity. If you truly want to test a man’s character, give him power,” said Abraham Lincoln. Character is what you do in the dark, D.L. Moody notes. And “there is no substitute for character,” reminds Robert A. Cook. “You can buy brains, but you cannot buy character.”
Integrity is the second trait a great leader must always possess. If what you say and what you do are the same, then you are a man of integrity. As Max Depree points out: “Integrity in all things precedes all else. The open demonstration of integrity is essential; followers must be wholeheartedly convinced of their leader’s integrity.
For leaders who live a public life, perceptions become a fact of life.” “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with the important matters,” said Albert Einstein. The ultimate test of leaders’ credibility is whether they do what they say. Most politicians are not good leaders because they lack this specific trait of a good leader. After all, what they say is not what they do.
“No one achieves and sustains success without discipline,” Dr. John C. Maxwell once said. And that includes being a leader. As Bertrand Russell puts it, “Nothing of importance is ever achieved without discipline.
I feel myself sometimes not wholly in sympathy with some modern educational theorists, because I think that they underestimate the part that discipline plays. But the discipline you have in your life should be one determined by your own desires and your own needs, not put upon you by society or authority.”
You may be talented, wealthy and famous, but without discipline, you are nothing. As author H. Jackson Brown Jr. reiterated, “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates.
There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”
A great leader should also have the ability to influence others. “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority,” Kenneth Blanchard said. John Maxwell himself agrees: “Leadership is influence.”
John D. Rockefeller was known for his amazing business success, but he had a greater reputation among those who knew him as being a man who motivated his people. He had a sincere appreciation for others and was willing to accept failure if an honest attempt had been made at success.
When one of his partners, Edward T. Bedford, failed in a business venture, which cost Rockefeller’s company a million dollars, Rockefeller responded with a statement that has become classic in business lore. He didn’t criticize Bedford because he knew he had done his best. He did, however, call Bedford to his office.
“I think it is honorable that you were able to salvage 60 percent of the money you invested in the South American venture,” Rockefeller told Bedford. “That’s not bad; in fact, it’s splendid.
We don’t always do as well as that upstairs.” A great leader is also good in motivating others rather than manipulating them. In his book, Something to Smile About, author Zig Ziglar gives us a thought-provoking comparison on both words:
“Motivation occurs when you persuade others to take an action in their own best interests. Things such as people preparing their homework, accepting responsibility for their performance, and finishing their education are the results of motivation.”
On the other hand, “manipulation is persuading others to take an action that is primarily for your benefit,” Ziglar explains. “Things such as selling an inferior product at an infl ated price and working people overtime with no extra pay are examples of manipulation.”
Walter Stevenson once pointed out: “If leadership is an art, then leaders are the artists, organizations are the easel, people are the canvas, ideas are the pigment, values are the frame, and vision is the thing that’s hung up at the gallery – the final outcome that’s so magical it tempts the audience to forget the messy process by which the result is fashioned, and lures them into a state of awe.”