As we are getting into that season of politicians telling us repeatedly what good leaders they will be if only we elect them to their favorite sinecure, it seemed appropriate to reflect on what qualities leaders have had historically that set them apart from others. There have been many leaders but some really stand out from even that select crowd. Let’s see, Caesar, Alexandra the Great, Napoleon, Shackleton, Eisenhower, Lee, Churchill and some others, but the number is limited. Every King, President, General or Admiral was not a great leader. Just as an example Grant was not a great leader. He was very good tactician and engineer, and had a great head for analysis–he could do the math and realized that he could pile up more dead bodies than Lee if he just kept attacking and he was right. But he was not loved by his men;they would not follow him to and through the gate s of hell.The ability to communicate accurately and sometimes with passion is certainly a common thread of all the great leaders of world history. With so many of them we think only of their military or political successes that we forget almost all of them were writers or orators or both. Caesar was known throughout the Roman world before he crossed the Rubicon because of his Commentaries. Napoleon was a fair writer and even better editor. The Napoleonic code was only a small slice of the civil administration reforms he initiated everyplace that was subdued by his arms. Most of those laws and reforms he at least edited some and he had to spell out clearly the purpose and scope of the reforms to the drafters. The people loved his speeches with one exception when he was almost arrested by the Senat in the late 1790’s. Some of his general orders were inspiring and yet detailed enough to give direction to the troops a nd his lieutenants. Churchill is my personal favorite. He was probably the most articulate man of the 20th century. He not only wrote with clarity and style, he could convey a true passion with his words. He could convey a mood and emotion so well. Everyone recalls his “we will fight them on the beaches…” speech. He wrote all his own speeches, no speech writer for him. Most think of him as a rich kid who got to idle about and being privileged. Fact is he was from a very famous family but he had no personal wealth that was inherited. He worked for his living by writing. He not only wrote books but countless magazine and newspaper articles throughout his life to support his family. He really was a working man, even his worst enemies would concede that.
Leaders have that ability to make us want to be better, to believe we can achieve what seems so impossible sometimes and truly ignite those fires in the abstract soul that inspire devotion and reaching for higher principles. Read biographies of great leaders. You will learn from the experience. I recommend for the not very dedicated reader a biography of Shackleton, the Antartic explorer on the Endeavor. An amazing exploit and incredible story of leadership. Without good leadership, it is most likely all would have died.
My dad spent some time as a glazier. He taught me how to cut glass even when you don’t have a glass cutter handy. If you have twine and gas or lighter fluid or similar igniter fluid you can make the cut you want. Mark the glass, then soak the twine in the igniter fluid of choice. Wrap the soaked twine around the glass where you have made your mark, Light the twine, it will only burn a few seconds. Then take the glass in a gloved hand and with a mallet give a quick but firm tap right along the burn line. The glass will break off where the heat weakened it. It will be a smooth line.