I am planning on doing quite a bit of writing about leadership, so I have called this part 1. I am not sure how many parts there will be, but we will see how far this takes us.
First off, there is one defining characteristic of a leader. A characteristic without which, a person is absolutely not a leader. All other characteristics are secondary to this, and may define the type of leader that a person is. But, this particular characteristic is necessary for a person to be called a leader.
Charisma? Useful, but not necessary.
Intelligence? Definitely not required.
The single defining characteristic of a leader is decisiveness. The ability to make a decision. Not just any decision, but a decision that affects numerous people and the consequences that come with it.
Think about this example. Many of you work in an office with others. Oftentimes you are probably talking about going to lunch with your co-workers. How often does this situation come up? You are all sitting around, burning your lunchtime, everyong throwing out suggestions of where to go, but none of them are being chosen. Everyone is hemming and hawing, “Oh, let’s go to this,” or “hey, I hear this place is great,” but no place is chosen. Why?
Finally, one person stands up and says something like, “I’m going to head over to that new Pho place, who wants to come?” Everyone does, of course. Guess who is the leader. If you pay attention to your social interactions such as this, you will notice that it is often, though not always, the same person who finally gets the group moving.
To be a leader, you absolutely have to make decisions. And not just decisions for yourself, decisions for the group. If you are one of the people hemming and hawing, you are not the leader.
Why is this, though? Why do we need people to make decisions for us? What is it about some people that they can do so, while others cannot? We’ll pick that up next time, but here’s a hint, if you think you know, you’re probably wrong.