Character is key to great leadership

IF WE could somehow bottle the qualities that we admire in our leaders, I wonder which ingredients we'd pick.

No doubt our leadership brew would come in several different flavours, according to taste, but certain overall characteristics can set the standard for any person we're happy to put in charge.

Self-serving, hurt-inflicting dictators who stash untold millions in Swiss banks while their countrymen live in abject poverty aren't likely to make the grade.

Neither would politicians who pocket obscene amounts of pay while denying pensioners a decent standard of living.

Abraham Lincoln believed that leaders should tap the "better angels of our nature" in the service of a cause much higher than personal gain.

Lincoln also used his power with words to weaken his opponents.

Empathy and a willingness to suffer for followers' ideals seem to mark out great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Ailing former South African president and anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela languished for 27 years in jail, sacrificing his health and family life for a cause he cared passionately about.

Mandela himself said: "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur," he said.

"You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership."

Commentator Paul Schoemaker picked out a few of Mandela's strengths - encouraging racial harmony, forgiveness without forgetting, power-sharing and a strong focus on the future.

"He rejoiced when the national rugby team Springboks won the world championship, even though this team had been a symbol of racism and Afrikaner power for decades.... Such leadership is as precious as it is rare," he wrote.

Author Kevin Daum considers the attributes of great leaders are ambition, patience, humility, humour, vision, compliance, tolerance, courage, accountability and gratitude.

They boldly drive forward, clearing a path for those who follow.

"Great leaders never take anything too seriously, especially themselves, knowing full well that people need a congenial environment to succeed," Daum says. "Great leaders blaze a trail in the dark and shed their own light, despite knowing that terror lurks around corners."

John Kenneth Galbraith captured the must-have element of leadership.

"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership."

Australia's party leaders have taken centre stage in the lead-up to the election.

As we cast our votes this Saturday, I think we should be reflecting as much on their character as on their policies.


Courageous couple an inspiration to all of us

THE sad death of a child often leads parents into a frenzy of activity to change the world for the better.

If their child has succumbed to a disease, they strive to research and overcome that ailment.

Grieving parents may set up a memorial organisation, so that the child's name lives on to benefit others.

Any parent will understand that desire to keep a child's spirit alive after the physical presence ceases to be.

Bruce and Denise Morcombe have faced unspeakable sadness in the past decade.

Instead of being overwhelmed by their tragic circumstances after the disappearance and death of son Daniel, they have

channelled their hurt and anger into something positive.

The Morcombes are an inspiration to all of us who wish to leave a worthwhile legacy.

They have dealt with a parent's worst nightmare and turned despair into a dream to make all children safer from predators.

Guests at tomorrow's Ipswich Child Protection Awards dinner will meet the courageous couple.

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