When we define great leaders, we often under appreciate what it is that makes them so. Of course, we focus on one or two great attributes and achievements which make them really stand out, but the truly great leaders are a composite of many positive attributes.
I mention this as we are seeing political leaders across the world right now proclaiming their varying degrees of success of their levels of leadership. What strikes me is that all these leaders are playing with the same deck of cards. They have the most brilliant minds around them (we hope at least), experts in disease, health, statistical analysis, risk and a myriad of other subjects critical to decision making in these times of COVID-19.
They also have economists and business leaders advising on wider impacts and they have the political advisors with their own agenda. Our leaders are rightly taking the advice and guidance from all these different areas in order to form what they believe to be the best strategy in leading their country through this crisis.
We can analyse the different paths our leaders have taken and their comparative success. We can debate and discuss the advice given, their interpretation, conclusions, outcomes and of course their actions. But that, in my opinion, is not the mark of the leaders that are standing out (both positively and negatively). Maybe in years to come, we will be able to reflect back and understand the ‘right’ decisions, why they were made by some and rejected by others, but right now, it is too soon to pass impartial judgement.
So why are we forming opinions about those leaders that are transcending and have the backing of their country, as opposed to those who appear to be struggling and seem to have lost the will of the people? This is about the voice of leadership, communicating the decision, not necessarily making the right decision but understanding a decision can succeed or fail by the way it is communicated to the people that it impacts.
Strong leadership is not just about making the decisions, it is about ensuring that the decision made is then delivered, explained and embraced by the people whom are affected and impacted by the decision. Having courage in your convictions, fully believing your ideas, having faith and confidence in the advice and guidance from the experts you have put your faith in is of no use if that is not shared by the people you are leading.
And that is what we are seeing during these times, we are not seeing within countries widespread animosity or differences through choice of direction and actions of the specific country.
We are seeing citizens of countries being broadly supportive and understanding that their leaders are advising them, guiding them, making difficult decisions, restricting civil liberties and freedom in order to fight COVID-19. We are seeing localised communities and society supporting and gaining strength from their friends and neighbours. We are, in most of the world, understanding and appreciating that the human race is stronger when we support each other in times of trouble to stand together.
For those countries that have leaders who are standing tall amongst the people, there is confidence within the country and beyond its borders that the country will rise and grow stronger in the long term because of the experiences they had together as citizens, with a great leader at the helm.
Conversely, we can see where those leaders who are struggling to communicate their message, to engage with their people and relate to them on an individual level. A great leader will state their choices, but they will take the time to explain them so even if they aren’t agreed with, they are understood. The great leader will make choices, difficult decisions, they will have courage in their decisions, but they will also have compassion with the impact of their decisions, so everyone affected in included in their understanding
We, the people, whether in business or politics, never expect anyone to have the definitive answer to difficult scenarios and problems. We all understand there is no right or wrong way as it is not black and white. We know our leaders must make difficult decisions under terrible circumstances but mostly we are looking for our leaders to communicate with strength, leadership, conviction, clarity, force and with humility.
This is no small task, but this is what separates the great leaders from those who just aspire to be great.
Nick Gold, managing director of Speakers Corner