History has provided us with numerous examples of great leaders throughout the ages. Whether they were good or bad, they had the ability to lead and inspire their people. At times they were victorious, and some eventually met their end. Some brought their nations to greatness, some brought their nations to cruel destruction. So what are the personal characteristics that make them great?
- One thing that I would say is intelligence. Quite simply, leaders won’t survive long against enemies if they are aloof or lack all-around smarts.
- Along with this is military intelligence; Napoleon did not rise to a position of power, but by his leadership abilities on the battlefield.
- Another thing is politics. Alexander the Great is an example of this. By mixing his people with those of his nation conquests, Alexander was able to make the political aims of his conquests as those of his own. This increases the population base from which money, soldiers, and resources can be drawn.
- We also need charisma, or the ability to persuade. Napoleon’s persuasion of troops sent to arrest him after his return from exile to side with him is a prime example of this. Read through Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, and you’ll read of Pericles’ persuasive ability.
- Another element that makes for a great leader is timing. Certain conditions ripen to allow for a leader to arise. Think of Hitler in Post-Versailles Germany. Obviously, a great leader’s ability to lead does not mean that the leadership is objectively good. However, Hitler was able to rise to power and cause world chaos. What would have become of him if he were born in Germany in 1850 instead of when he was (around 1900)?
So, what do you think? What are the elements of a great leader based on what we’ve learned from history?