Taking the Leadership Leap
By Chelse Benham
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy
What does it take to be a leader? Are you born one or can the qualities of a
leader be cultivated? The University of Texas-Pan American believes certainly in
the latter. In its Student Leadership Program, offered by the Student Life and
Transition Services Office, incoming high school students are awarded four-year
scholarships to minor in leadership at the University.
“The mission is to produce the next generation of leaders for Texas,” said
Alejandra Mascorro, a junior physical therapy major and a scholarship recipient.
“The program stresses the importance of being a “Leader of Character,” which
teaches us how to present ourselves, how to communicate and how to work as a
team. It’s exciting, challenging and extremely effective.”
Naseem Mariam, editor of "Management that Soars" eNewsletter and author of
"Project Serenity - How to Gain Happiness and Peace" compiled a list of
common qualities found in world leaders:
1. has personal integrity, deals honestly and gains trust;
"The glue that holds all relationships together – including the
relationship between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based
on integrity." - Brian Tracy, an authority on personal and business
2. has clear long vision; executes first things first; inspires others to
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and
become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams, (1767-1848)
the sixth President of the United States
3. is positive, enthusiastic, committed; has focus-ability;
"The person who sends out positive thoughts activates the world
around him positively and draws back to himself positive results." -
Norman Vincent Peale, (1898 - 1993) US clergyman
4. is solution-oriented, creative; makes top management efficient;
"Don't find fault, find a remedy." - Henry Ford, (1863-1947)
5. is a catalyst; fosters self motivation;
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when
the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is
revealed only if there is a light from within.” - Elizabeth Kübler-Ross,
M.D., psychiatrist and author
6. strives for excellence always;
"A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes
people where they don't necessarily want to go but ought to be." -
Charles A. Cerami, author
7. is a good communicator; a great negotiator; nurtures relationships;
"Knowing when to keep your mouth shut is invariably more
important than opening it at the right time." - Malcolm Forbes, (1919 -
1990) US art collector, author and publisher
8. is kind-hearted, generous and giving; serves others;
"Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet
call to self-importance." - J. Donald Walters, an internationally known
author, lecturer, and composer
9. balances confidence with caution; adapts management styles for war
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” - Helen Keller,
(1882-1968) the deaf and blind woman who became a role model for
millions of people
10. rejuvenates self and transforms strengths into talents.
"As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live." –Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe, (1749-1832) German poet, novelist, playwright,
courtier, natural philosopher and one of the greatest figures in Western
At business-office-productivity.net a concise listing of key traits of successful
leaders included the following:
• emotional stability
• dominance, competitive and decisive and enjoy overcoming obstacles
• socially aggressive and thick skinned
• tough minded and to-the-point
Even if you weren’t taught the skills of leadership there are ways to cultivate the
characteristics and ultimately, the air of a leader. Every one of us can support our
leaders and our managers and continually practice our leadership skills. What
can you do?
Let us start by saying that being a leader is not glamorous. Many think about the
position and not the work behind the position. There is very little glory in it. The
load of responsibility given to a leader is enormous and often subjected to harsh
scrutiny and criticism. So why do individuals take on this role? Duty. There are
situations that just lead to someone being in charge, whether it is superior skill or
just plain courage. Sun Tzu, the “Art of War,” an ancient Chinese text for leaders
and strategist, it lists what it takes to be a leader:
• Like Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte, you need to lead from
the front. In general, people are lost. When they see someone ahead of
them to guide the way, they tend to follow. Be that someone.
• Listen to your group. You don't need to agree and do all they suggest, but
at least consider their points of view. Doing so, you will gain much goodwill
because they know they have someone who cares.
• Don't mind working in the dirt. Leaders go wherever they have to go to
achieve an objective. You are never too big to do the most menial tasks.
• Appoint strong administrators, preferably stronger than yourself. They are
the major cogs driving the entire system. Promote your staff based on
loyalty and performance.
• Be 100 percent committed to the organization. If you're not, why should
your people? When they see someone who only thinks of himself, they will
be discouraged. But when they see someone who looks out for the group,
even above personal gain and be ready and willing to suffer the
consequences of risks taken, they will indeed follow without hesitation.
• Share the rewards. Do it, and they will want more.
• Apply strict discipline on yourself. If there are any doubts to your ability,
there will not be complete unity. Be tough on yourself and your strongest
critics will never have anything to complain about.
• Be a person who is likable. We're not talking about physical appearance
as much as having a pleasant personality. Don't be afraid to use humor
and show humbleness in your actions.
• You can take the loneliness. When you're the leader, feelings of bleakness
will be with you many times. Your character and emotional control will
have to be strong enough to navigate through this mire.
• Get rid of individuals who are against you personally. No doubt you will
have people who will disagree with your policies. In fact, you need thinking
people who can question your rationale; you don't want yes-men. But
when certain individuals attack you as a person, you need to let them go.
This behavior will only bring division.
No society would have flourished without the vision and determination of its
leaders. There are all areas of interaction that call on leadership. Just being an
active and engaged steward in your own life may require at times practicing the
art of leadership to maximize the potential outcomes. Developing and
implementing the traits above help to serve as steadfast guidelines for future
“Leadership is action, not position.” – Donald H. McGannon, author and former
CEO of Westinghouse Broadcasting Corporation.