The Mythical Leader

When I hear people talking about 'what a great leader should be like', I am reminded of a class we had during my Civil Services Foundation Course training at Mussoorie. A senior IAS officer was taking the class.

The topic of discussion was 'Officer Like Qualities' (or OLQ, in short). The Civil Services, and I believe even the army, have a minor obsession with OLQs.

The instructor asked us to name a few OLQs. People started adding all the good qualities any homo sapiens member can have. Soon the list crossed 25 items, and was growing.

At that point, one officer trainee raised his hand and said: "Sir, these are more God Like Qualities, than OLQs." Even the instructor started laughing.

Similarly, when we talk about leadership qualities, we think of an idealized, mythical guy. And when we compare ourselves against that ideal, we see ourselves falling short. I most certainly do.

Real leaders, even very successful ones, often conform to no such standards. They are, sadly, highly imperfect - not unlike you and me.

I believe the only essential leadership qualities are integrity, problem-solving skills, and ideally, a bit of daring (vision?). Even this, I believe, is quite a high bar.


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