This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
Selecting a good leader is a very difficult task. It’s easy to say that if we had better choices, we would pick better leaders. But that means that we are promoting the wrong people through the system. We are very good at complaining about our leaders. We eventually get rid of them and move on to the next one.
I am not about to get into the specifics of the current battle for the leader of the Conservative party. However it is interesting to see that for the second time in three years a very small group of individuals will be choosing the British Prime Minister. An interesting conundrum. Even if you do not support the Tories everyone is gripped to hear the final result. If affects all of us no matter which party we support.
My question is more of a general one as, so often, during our lives we are called upon to choose a leader – class prefect, head of school, captain of a sports team, leader of a local club or organisation. I just wonder how often we think about what makes a good leader. Perhaps if those doing the choosing thought about this it might make their job easier and their choice more obvious. Often the things that first attract us to a leader are not the attributes that make a good leader in the long term.
So here are my 7 criteria for choosing a leader:
- Integrity. Integrity is the fundamental attribute that keeps everything else secure. Without integrity, things break down fast.
- Empathy. Empathy is a fundamental ability to tune in to others, it “is critical for leadership for many reasons. Combined with integrity, it drives trust. It gives followers a sense that their interests are being looked after, and this creates positive energy.
- Emotional Intelligence. This is self-mastery or the ability to perceive, control, and improve the connection between what we feel and the way we act. It’s about self-awareness. Do I know myself? Can I control myself? Do I look for ways to improve?
- Vision. A frequently abused term, vision starts with imagination and an inquisitive mind. Visionary leaders are good storytellers who are capable of weaving together interesting connections. Vision provides direction.
- Judgment. Good judgment is good decision making. This sounds simple enough, but the origins of how and why people make the decisions they do are actually quite complex. It’s the ability to zero in on what’s important, see the whole chessboard, and take decisive action.
- Courage. There is always conflict. Leadership means being on the front line of those conflicts. It means facing conflicts, mediating and shaping them, sometimes at the risk of great personal cost or freedom. How often does a fear of standing out inhibit your ability to do the right thing?
- Passion. A leader’s passion or drive is important because it creates positive energy. They attract followers and act as catalysts for the formation of highly motivated teams. High energy and enthusiasm are signs of passion but the trick is to determine where that fire comes from and is the leader in it just for themselves. There is a balance to be maintained with the other six attributes.
I look forward to watching the current elections of our next Prime Minister to see if the final choice ticks all of these boxes! And to see if the next Prime Minister can begin to unite all the different sides both inside and outside Parliament.