What Defines a Leader?

Last week, my oldest son, Aidan, wrote the following essay on leadership. I was inspired by his words, and reminded of the importance of being both a good leader and a good follower. I hope you all will be blessed as well.

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What makes a leader? Well, this depends on who you ask. Some might say that a leader is a person who is respected, while others could argue that a leader is someone who simply has other people under his authority. A leader could be the person in a movie who brings everybody together to fight a common evil, or perhaps a leader is someone who is willing to be led. I tend to agree with the latter.

John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable from each other.” To become a great leader you must become a great follower. If you think that people such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle John just woke up one day and became leaders, you’d be mistaken. They were true leaders because they worked for it and didn’t give up. When George Washington was in Valley Forge, with hundreds of men under his control, did he curl up in a ball in a corner and die? NO, instead he prayed! He decided that his wisdom wasn’t sufficient in this situation. He turned to the ultimate leader, God, and asked for his wisdom.

True leadership takes years of development. Jack Welch said, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” A great leader shouldn’t have to force other people to do what he wants done; a great leader will have people who are willing to do what he wants done. God is a great example of that idea. He has gained a following greater than any other single entity in the universe. We don’t follow God because He tells us He will kill us if we don’t; we follow Him because He loves us, listens to us, helps us, advises us, and cares for us.

So, what makes a great leader? Norman Schwarzkopf said, “A great leader is a potent combination of strategy and character, but if he must be without one, he should be without the strategy.” Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably, integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is in a section gang, a football field, an army, or in an office.” A leader is someone who is humble enough to be led and to learn, and someone who has great character. He will be willing to teach the next generation of leaders.


Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. – Joshua 1:6, 8, 9


because home wasn't built in a day

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16 thoughts on “What Defines a Leader?”

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