Leadership and decision-making

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EACH person is different: some are loud and energetic, others are quiet and thoughtful; the combinations of qualities are practically infinite.

And, it is impossible to know who is dishonest and bad, or, who is truthful and good, based on those qualities. This is true too, of leaders: some are charismatic and enjoy riding horses; others are quiet and prefer to read books and play chess. It is, therefore, unfair and misleading to judge how good a leader is on the basis of superficial traits.

Since we live in a democratic country, we have a responsibility to choose our political leaders; we should therefore know how to make such assessments and comparisons. It makes sense then, to rely on the opinions of experts to learn how to do that.

The subjects of leadership and the qualities that make a good leader have been exhaustively studied and are well understood. The American author John Maxwell defined a good leader as, “One who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” In other words, he knows where he wants to go, he leads by example, and he is able to communicate that path to followers. Historians and other specialists who study leaders say that all good leaders have certain specific qualities: for example, all good leaders are honest and have integrity.

Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, said, “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionable integrity.” Based on that, any person whose honesty is questionable may be disqualified from a position of leadership. That is, if we even have cause to question from where a person obtained unexplained wealth, for example, we may wish to reconsider giving that person a leadership position.

All good leaders have confidence. They need not speak loudly, but they are assertive and sure of themselves. They are calm, collected, and thoughtful; they are able to quietly inspire others to overcome challenges. John Quincy Adams, America’s sixth President, said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a good leader.”

Good leaders are passionate and committed; they believe in their cause. In fact, one good measure of commitment is whether the leader is willing to get out of his office, go into the field and get his hands dirty. A man who sits in an executive chair all the time and makes speeches from the comfort of an air-conditioned office is not a good candidate for leadership.

A good leader has a clear vision of goals, and a definite strategy to achieve those goals. Further, he is able to communicate his goals and strategies to his followers.
Followers will notice too, that a good leader is decisive when making decisions. He will consult, he will listen to advice, but, when he makes a decision he will stand by it; he will know the reason for making the particular decision and will be accountable to the people for the consequences of his decisions.

Additionally, those decisions are often creative and innovative; good leaders often think outside the box, while maintaining an empathetic connection with followers. Steve Jobs, American businessman, said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Good leaders, then, are not afraid to propose new ideas and follow through on them.
Guyanese are just now beginning to understand that decisions made by citizens have consequences.

Examples on the international political scene make clear that poorly made decisions – even in advanced democracies – will result in bad outcomes. It is therefore important – particularly in our young democracy – that we take our responsibilities seriously; that we desist from choosing our leaders based on who may have the loudest voice, or some other unimportant factor.

Rather, we should carefully assess potential representatives on the basis of abilities and merit that matter, and make decisions based on those objective assessments; the future of our country, and the quality of the lives of our children depend on our decisions.