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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Essay on Philosophy of Leadership

Essay on Philosophy of Leadership

            "Do you understand what I have done for you?  You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”  (John 13:12-15)  This highlights one of the qualities of a great leader as emphasized by the greatest leader humanity has ever had – Jesus Christ.  Leadership qualities however are not an exclusive characteristic of Jesus Christ.  All persons have the ability to lead.  However, what separates a great leader from others is what is inside their heart.   
            Since the time of Jesus Christ the concept leadership has immensely evolved.  Leadership nowadays is not simply about the leader but his followers as well.  Leadership is not simply about the traits the leader must have to be effective.  Society has now learned that the best ideas, concepts, goals of a leader will have no value at all without his followers.  Leadership is therefore not a singular term but a plural term always involving the followers.  
            The evolution in the concept of leadership can be seen in the different models that have been conceptualized about leadership.  These models of leadership are: a) Transactional leadership; b) Transformational Leadership; c) Visionary Leadership.  Transactional Leadership is based on the assumption that people are motivated by rewards and punishment (Deanne N. Den Hartog 1997, p.1).  The assumption is that the followers will work better when they know they will receive a reward after accomplishing a particular task.  A Transactional Leader provides a clear organizational structure for the members of the group to understand their roles and responsibilities, the rewards they will receive for following orders and the punishment they will get for not following orders.  Although oftentimes, punishment will not be mentioned, it will always be implied in the organizational structure.  Transformational Leadership is based on the assumption that the people will follow a leader who will inspire and motivate them (Tatiana N. Kuzmenko 2004, p. 1).  A Transformational Leader appeals to the moral values and ideals of his worker so that they will be inspired to accomplish the goals of the organization.  He not only leads by example to the members of the group but he also serves as a good teacher, mentor and coach for the individual members of the group.  His influence is therefore based on his relationship with his members.  On the other hand, a visionary leader is somewhat akin to the transformational leader in the sense that they both act as change agent towards their group. They both inspire their members to transcend themselves and become better people.  What distinguishes the visionary leader from a transformational leader is his vision for the group.  A visionary leader dreams of great things for the future of his organization and for the members of the group.  He always has a plan or model that serves as his compass (William F. Fechter, 1991, p.1). He articulates his vision to his members and shares them so that they may understand where the organization is heading.  
            Though these leadership ideas have greatly improved our knowledge of what a leader is and should be these concepts however have veered away from the essence of being a leader.  These concepts focus on the external manifestations of what a leader should be based on what the followers want to see in a leader.  A transactional leader is not actually a good leader because he depends on the rewards and punishment he gives to his employees.  Once he loses this power to give rewards and impose punishment, he loses the ability to lead.  Transformational and Visionary leaders act and behave with the knowledge that this is what their followers want to see in them.  They know that their followers want to see certain behaviors from them and so they act in accordance with these expectations.  
             I believe the essence of a great leader is not found in what the followers want and what the followers expect.  One of the qualities of a great leader is his ability to serve.  It is because of this reason that I consider Jesus Christ as one of the greatest leaders humanity has ever had.  

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            Firstly, a great leader must have the qualities of godliness and integrity.  The most important criterion therefore is what is inside a person.  He is someone who has a deep and personal relationship with God and who fears God above all else.  A leader who fears God is not capable of anything that is potentially harmful to other people.  He must also have integrity because he must be someone whom the followers can trust.  His character and reputation must be beyond reproach and beyond doubt.  There is no artificiality and duplicity in his character.  A great leader therefore should not only behave properly in public and act beyond reproach in front of his people.  I emphasized character and integrity because recently, a Governor of New York, was forced to step down from his office because of allegations of him having sexual relations with a prostitute involved in a prostitution syndicate.  It was indeed true that outside of this scandal, Elliot Spitzer, the former New York Governor, had served his country well.  In 2002, Spitzer brought legal action against Merrill Lynch after he accused the company of issuing misleading research to investors for the sole purpose of boosting its investment banking revenue.  (Greg Farrell, 2003, p.2)  In 2003, Spitzer was also responsible for spearheading the investigation on the mutual fund industry in view of the findings of “market timing” and illegal late trading of mutual fund shares. (Joseph Kay, p.1)  Nevertheless, this does not negate the fact that he had behaved inappropriately against his family and to his countrymen.
            The second quality of a great leader is that he must be someone who knows how to serve other people.  This is why I think Jesus Christ is the greatest leader as he devoted his life to the service of others.  His whole life was all about service to other people.  He did not act as if he was a King.  This is evident in the manner he chose to be born which is in a lowly and simple manger.  In the above-quoted passage, Jesus Christ washed the feet of his disciples.  He tells his disciples that they should likewise serve other people the way he served them.  The manner he died on the Christ is also an example how he sacrificed himself to save other people.  
            It must however be emphasized that one need not have the qualities similar to God to become an exceptional leader.  Former Prime Minister Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill is also an exceptional leader who showed that he truly cared about the welfare of other people.  Churchill was not only great because of his intelligence which he manifested in all his writings.  He was unequalled not only because of his long political career and his service as Prime Minister.  His greatness lies in his love for liberty and freedom not only for his county but for his countrymen as well.  Churchill’s inspirational words about the importance of freedom reverberated through the world.  It made countries realized that freedom is not only for the rich and powerful countries.  Even the smallest nations deserve freedom from tyrannical rule.  With his powerful words every nation became conscious of how important freedom us and why we should fight for it with our life.  One of his memorable speeches delivered which greatly inspired his countrymen was: “we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end ... we shall fight in the seas and oceans ... we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender...”
            Churchill’s exerted a positive influence to the world.  His leadership also became a role mode for any leader in the world.  He made the oppressors realize that might does not make right. The fact that a country is stronger and more powerful than other countries does not give it the right to conquer any country that it pleases.   At the same time, because of his leadership, the oppressed realized that there is nothing more honorable than dying in the battlefield fighting for the country’s liberty.  The world realized that being conquered by another country is worse than death.  

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