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The nature of true leadership

hi. guys )

I would like to ask a question. which I, myself, was asked during GRE exam (writing section).

Who is the true leader of nation? Must it be somebody with deep-rooted principles, somebody who has his/her own vision of what must be done?

Or, on the opposite, a leader should be flexible and must follow the voice of his people? Even, if it requires a certain level of compromise.


For me, it was not an easy question. As always, the deeper you dig, the more sides you'll see...

I want to hear what do you think?




Hi Anna, 

I agree that it's not an easy question. What makes this question difficult is the word 'true' because there is an objective and subjective approach. Objectively, a true leader as your correctly wrote is someone with deep rooted principles, a strong and clear vision for thier society and an understanding of what needs to be done to achieve that vision. But what if the vision is wrong? A true leader might also be seen to be flexible and able to adapt to the trends in society and must often compromise. But who are they compromising with? Is it in the interests of the few over the many? The question of compromise again probably comes back to the nature of the political system that the selected leader is working within. In a parliamentary system, a leader and his/her party might have to compromise with other parties to pass a particular law. What makes a leader true is often seen through the eyes of those who are being lead. For instance, a leader who advocates strongly for the poor with many free or cheap programs may need to fund these programs by increasing taxes on the more wealthy in society, which might make that leader less popular with those people. 


I like to think many of our true leaders are found at the community level, the volunteers that work tirelessly and selflessly to improve their communities. Those leaders do not compromise their ideals and principles and have a singular purpose and vision and are usually working with other people that have the same beliefs. Leadership is important to some extent but I think what fails the people more often than not is the system which produces or discourages leadership. At an invidual level, we can be better leaders in our own lives/communities to improve the system and make it fairer for everyone, especially younger generations. This is a very simplistic answer. As you wrote, we could write from many different perspectives. 

I love the flow of your thoughts, Elias. 

And it is undeniable truth, that we have to start from small scale, which means we have to be leaders in our lives first.

In fact, I can't imagine, how challenging it must be to lead the nation, to represent the country.

Comprimising some point, you neglect the other. And, as ancient saying goes, you can never please everybody :)

By the way, who is the leader, you admire? 


Thanks Anna! I completely agree. It would be really difficult leading a nation with so many people and diverse interests relying on you to varying extents. I think politics is unfortunately an ugly business because whatever you do as leader/government, you can be certain there will be many people that dislike you or think you're doing a terrible job. Exactly like you wrote but more concisely - you can never please everybody! That's the unfortunate nature of the system. I guess that's where true leadership comes in to a large degree, to do something because it is right and just even if it's not popular or offends powerful interests. 


There have been 'leaders' I have admired throughout history, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are pretty obvious choices I guess. What has become apparent to me in my life however is that all leaders are human. We tend to forget that sometimes. They are imperfect, flawed and vulnerable just like the rest of us. Sometimes they disappoint us, let us down, make us angry. We shouldn't really expect them to perfect even though we need them to be honest and have integrity. Part of the problem might be that we expect too much of others and not ask enough of ourselves to make a small difference at our level. I'm really not sure of the solution or if there is one but I really appreciate you asking the question. It makes us think about these things which is never a bad thing. 


A true leader without doubt is one with principles and having a vision keeping the interest of common people uppermost. Having said that, leading a nation is like having a crown full of thorns. Compromising on principles will indirectly mean succumbing to the pressures of vested interests which raises the head in terms of manufactured common voices. And even if majority thinks emotionally on certain point but the leader feels it is not good for the country, the job is to do the right thing. It requires courage of conviction and a fearless mind. That can only happen if the leader has clear conscience and honest mind & heart. The leader has to have an aura around the personality that people accept his/her decisions despite disagreeing. The decisions taken based on deep rooted principles can also go wrong but as long as intention is pure and the leadership is wise and smart, it is unlikely that any decision will have bad long term impact. Apart from having good principles, a true leader should also have wisdom & vision. Do we have such leaders ? I doubt. And hence the talk of compromise.

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