Is your leader the real deal?

As you watch the political stage, it is useful to know if you are backing a true leader or a self-centred power-hungry opportunist.

True leaders measure their greatness by their followers

You can broadly divide the stage into nation builders, who serve the greater good, and empire builders, who, through a leadership position, are merely serving their own selfish interests.

Nation builders speak the language of values and idealism, and of getting the best out of people and for the people. Empire building is about vanity and power, mixed in various proportions. Vanity, of course, is brilliant at mimicking good values and talking about idealistic aspirations.

The way to tell whether you are getting the real deal or someone exploiting the goodwill, naivety and eternal hope of the masses is not to listen to good rhetoric and emotive speeches, but to watch carefully what leaders do.

Observe how people claiming to serve the greater good operate. Notice how they treat people who challenge them or see through them. The effect that they have on people who work closest to them is also telling.

True leaders measure their own greatness by the stature of those whom they lead. They would, therefore, prefer to be surrounded by people of substance rather than mere sycophants. They understand that they cannot do the job on their own; they need the skills and wisdom of others to assist them.

Real leaders also measure their success by the size of their constituency, and by its diversity. G reat leaders are leaders for all, not only the few in their circle. Authentic leaders inspire unity.

Most importantly, true leaders are afraid to lose touch with their diverse constituency. They would, therefore, consult broadly and rely on others to give them feedback.

Empire builders, on the other hand, instil fear in their followers, who then are too frightened to speak truth to power. They consequently become self-referential and believe that their view alone is worthy of consideration. Moral vacuums support empire builders.

Many outstanding potential leaders drop out of politics and retreat into non-government organisations to carry on their mission. There is a point at which they discover that winning comes at too high a price in terms of compromising their values.

The arrogant and the vain are frightening because they act as if they are invincible and, if they have sponsorship from someone in a higher position.

The upside is that, because of their lack of fear, they reveal their true colours from the outset.

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