Qualities of a leader

In case you don’t already know I am majoring in Advanced Technologies and Performance Improvement at UNT. This program is basically about learning how to be a good leader as well as learning about instructional technologies. Anyway, for one of my leadership courses I was assigned a 10 page book report over a leadership book of my choice. The book I chose was The Leadership of Muhammad by John Adair. I picked it when we first starting researching Islam because I thought I could kill two birds with one stone: learning about the Prophet as well as doing some required reading.

So the report is due on Monday, I’m halfway through the book and I feel like my head might explode. It’s really an interesting book that is chock full of information and stories not only about Muhammad, but also about other prominent figures of the time. The leadership themes are easy to pick out and seem to match up with the things we are learning in the course for the most part. I love that at the end of each chapter Adair has included a “key points” section that reiterates the leadership themes of the chapter. With all of the narrative it becomes hard at times to read from the perspective of learning about leadership rather than just wanting to read the rest of the story.

There are a few of “key points” that I really found to be true. These points represent qualities of leaders that we should actively look for when choosing who we will follow.

1. “A leader should exemplify or personify the qualities expected, required and admired in their working groups.” If we cannot look up to our leaders and be proud of who they are and know that they value the same things as we do, then how can we be expected to follow them and trust in their decisions?

2. Humility. I like that the origin of the word is explained here. It comes from the Latin root hummus which means ground or earth, related to homo which refers to man. The example presented in the book is that Muhammad “spread his cloak, lowered himself and sat on the ground with people at the same level” which was an act of humility. This trait is admirable in every man, not just in our leaders. Placing yourself above another man (be it you follower or otherwise) seems a sure way to make him feel small and belittled.

3. Leading by example. Leaders teach their followers how to act and what to believe by example. This is something that everyone really needs to take into consideration, especially with the upcoming primaries. If a leader teaches intolerance then there is a good chance that their followers will learn this behavior and act on it themselves.Do we really need more intolerance?

“When a Sheppard is corrupt, so is his flock”

As an example, look at Mr. Herman Cain. The behavior and attitude that he portrays is that of intolerance, especially toward “all of the American Muslim extremists.” Do we really need a leader who openly admits that he is intolerant of certain groups of people? How does this openness of disrespect and intolerance influence his followers? And considering he has admitted this intolerance, openly, on several occasions, what other intolerance does he have that he isn’t or hasn’t shared? (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/68306.html)

4. “No tribe ever knowingly chooses a man who is known to be morally bad as their leader.” A tribe can be any group of people, a work group, a religious group, a country…people who have to work together to achieve a common goal. When we are looking for leaders we don’t actively seek out those who have proven to make decisions that go against the moral culture of the tribe. We look for leaders who share the same moral standards as we do and who, at least for the most part, adheres to those standards.

An article I found on Psychology Today talks about how the morality of a leader, even in animal studies, can change the character of a society. (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moral-lives-animals/201104/how-leader-human-or-animal-can-affect-groups-moral-culture)

Overall, we need to look at the characteristics of successful leaders of the past, define their outstanding qualities and actively seek those qualities in our future leaders. Leaders do not only need to be willing to lead, but the need to represent the needs of their followers and know how to connect with them in order to get the common goals of the “tribe” accomplished. Muhammad is a great example of a morally sound leader who understood the needs of his people. He knew that serving his people and treating them as his equals would build a lasting relationship built on trust and respect which, in the long run, would allow them to accomplish their common goals.

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