There are as great a variety in leadership styles and leaders as individuals (both good and bad throughout history). Some have great ability and others have been rather lacklustre. Leadership skills can be learned but there needs to be an inherent leader deep within the person. Think of the great leaders of the past and the present. They often come with a great deal of personality and charisma whether liked or despised. Whoever they were, in whatever country, male or female, they caused people to follow them.
Military establishments world-wide have schools of leadership that help in the training of future leaders of that country’s military and to a degree its political establishment. The research conducted can be applied in other areas of social life in a country or organization. Business leadership courses are given to individuals not always heading into a business environment. Even the most basic of leadership skills can be enhanced and improved so that wherever the person goes they will carry with them a set of skills that should permit that individual to excel in that field of leadership.
This then applies not simply to military, politics and business, but also to areas such as Church leadership and social organizations, schools/universities and many other areas of public life. In business we see effective leaders rise with a company and the evidence is often the financial success of the company. The great business leader not only seeks personal gain but the profitability of the company as well as the security of the employees working there.
In government there is a great deal of room for style of leader and has been witnessed over the ages. Benevolent monarchs, despotic presidents, prime ministers of courage and presidents who sought the welfare of their people before personal gain. Vlad III, known as Vlad the Impaler was not a great leader who would inspire more than fear in his subjects. “… a sensible king is the stability of his people” (Wisdom 6, 24). A political personage carries risks of favouring some over others and bullying instead of leading. To carry the will of the people is a tight-rope act of acumen. “A leader is a dealer in hope” said Napoleon. Hope is what we need to offer “our team”, that is, those around us who we seek to lead.
Some church bodies elect their leadership from among a large body of representatives. Others, like the Pope is elected from among and by a small body of leaders, the College of Cardinals. Not all cardinals are great leaders, and neither are all popes. But until the advent of mass media there was little for the ordinary person to see and so leadership style was not the key but rather orthodoxy and answering the needs of the day in the light of Tradition and Scripture. Pope Pius XII was perhaps the first to use the media to make statements visually as well as orally that would be noticed around the world. It was Pope St John Paul II who really took to the media having trained in theatre and therefore knew the means of communicating to a mass audience. Whether in front of enormous crowds for a papal Mass in a city somewhere on the planet, or standing on the balcony of St Peter’s basilica, he knew how to reach to the people before him. And his leadership was such that beyond the visuals, he was able to lead due to his knowledge and humility. Leadership for him was not bullying, it was gentle persuasion.
Each of us, in a small place of our own, is a leader because we are disciples. Whether we work from home or in an office, whether we travel to work or spend time in front of a computer reaching masses of people through social media, we are called to Christian leadership. This is a calling directly from the calling of the first disciples. We are commanded to make new disciples, to lead others to Christ. One cannot do this by bullying. It comes from a leadership where the people around us see Christ in us rather than we ourselves. Just as John the Baptist called others and then faded into the background with the advent of the earthly ministry of Jesus, we too must be the same.
A true disciple – in imitation of the Good Shepherd – leads with the voice of wisdom, love and gentle persuasion. Leaders, disciples, are such that even if un-liked for who they are, will be followed because the followers can see and respect the knowledge and skill acknowledged in that person. Even generals and politicians who are not always loved by those under them often have been great leaders because of the respect they were able to enlist from these same people. We need to emulate the Good Shepherd and try our best to live a virtuous life in imitation of Him. Not all disciples will be the leaders in their communities or parishes, but all can be leaders in the sense of leading to Christ. How did you love? Did you and I love enough to lead others to the well spring of life? A true leader wants the best for his or her people.