Editorial: What makes a great leader?

This week’s Adamah offerings lead Joseph Evans to reflect on the differences between a good and bad leader.

True leaders form communities. Bad leaders divide them. True leaders make their society ever more a house, a home, like a family and based on families. Bad leaders knock houses down, or cause divisions and disunity in home or social life.

The truly great leaders of history are great not so much for having done great deeds. They are great for the positive unity – unity in good, not in evil – which they have promoted. When they manage to unite their society around a brave and generous shared ideal for the good of the world, leaders show their greatness.

A brilliant and daring warrior can conquer an empire. Only a true leader can rule it as a harmonious whole which will continue long after he or she has gone.

Great leaders include and integrate. They rule for all, not just their clique or clan. 

True leaders point the way and inspire you to follow it. But they don’t force you to do so.

Their vision is sufficiently broad to encompass and embrace those who might think differently or even oppose them. Great leadership therefore also involves an openness to dialogue.

For everything said above, one of the greatest forms of leadership is to be a good mother or father of a family, integrated within the extended family and the society around it. Parents should not lead their families into ghettos.

Mums also know all about one of the most subtle forms of leadership: leading from below. Dads might sometimes (though not always) seem the dominant figure, but mums know how to influence them discreetly towards a more merciful and caring end. And mum usually knows best.

Leadership begins with ruling over ourselves. How can we presume to rule over others when we can’t control our own whims and passions?

At a time when ever more tyrants – ruled by their lusts or their fears – seem determined to destroy our world, we need people ready to accept the responsibility of leadership at whatever level of society they find themselves in. What do you need to do – or change in yourself – to be the great leader you are called to be, no matter how small your part of the jigsaw might seem?

These thoughts on leadership are inspired by this week’s Adamah articles, beginning with this stimulating piece by Lisa Fraser in which she outlines the characteristics of great leaders.

In a brilliant article, Maddy Fry focuses on divisions in American society and how media consumption seems to be accentuating them. Read more here.

James Bradshaw considers the ideas of the great sociologist Robert Putnam whose work has charted the erosion in social capital in the US and Europe, particularly through the decline of the family as an institution and the drop in religious practice. You can check it out here.

Natasha Farwell explains here how she could have done with a wise leader to point her in the right direction when she finished university.

And finally, in this thoughtful article the evergreen Nicole Law compares her own life with the Asian game Pachinko. What game would you compare your life with: Monopoly, Empire, Catan, even Risk? Hopefully not Werewolf, Grand Theft Auto or Trivial Pursuits!

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Fr Joseph Evans is a Catholic priest and member of the Opus Dei prelature. He has been a journalist and youth worker, and is currently a university chaplain in Oxford. He is co-founder and Editorial Director of Adamah, which he sees as bringing together some of his great passions: good writing, intelligent and honest discussion, and helping young people achieve their full potential.

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