Monday, February 09, 2004

It's good to be king

Emmett and I talked last night about being king, and my opinion was (and still is) that it would pretty well suck. Evil villains always want to rule the world, but IMO that's further sign of the insanity that will someday prove their undoing. Bill Clinton aged about twenty years after two terms in the White House, and he just had to govern (along with Congress) one nation. Can you imagine what he would have looked like after eight years as the absolute ruler of the entire world? I'm aging quickly enough, thanks.

Emmett (very kindly) remarked that he thought I'd be a good king, because I didn't want the job, and at the risk of sounding arrogant I'm going to agree. In any group I tend to step up to the plate in terms of taking charge of organizing whatever it is we're doing, and I rather enjoy it. It got me thinking about just what makes a good leader. I've boiled it down to three basic traits, which I present for your edification:

Humility: A good leader has to understand that a) he's not fundamentally better than anyone else; and b) that he doesn't know everything about everything. A humble leader doesn't put his own petty desires before the common good, nor does he dismiss a good idea simply because he didn't think of it first. He accepts that he can be wrong, and views mistakes as opportunities, not humiliations.

Decisiveness: Nothing destroys your followers' confidence faster than the appearance of weakness. A good leader has to know when to cajole and seek consensus, it's true, but he also has to know when to draw the line and stand alone. With leaders as with immortals, there can be only one, and he/she has to be willing to make the tough calls and then stick with 'em.

Vision: If humility is the road and decisiveness the car, vision is the map that tells you where you need to drive. Without vision, a leader is more a manager, which is useful but not the person you want in the big chair.

Of course, there are a multitude of other desirable qualities: honesty, intelligence, fairness, and a host of others. However, I think that the three I have named are absolutely indispensible.

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