Leader, as the word obviously suggests is one who shows others the way and guides them to achieve their common objective. Anyone cannot be a leader. Only the person who has certain qualities and the ability to guide others to complete a set task can be a leader. The qualities that he possesses or rather the qualities that are required to do this job can be called leadership qualities.
The terms leader, leadership and leadership qualities are so broad in their meaning and scope that they cannot be put into a definition that would completely or fully describe them. However, the major qualities or characteristics can be put as physical and mental strength, high moral character, knowledge required in some particular field, power or authority, innovation or the ability to find new solutions to sudden or emergent problems and the charisma that forces others to accept him as a leader.
Different qualities are required in different fields to lead others, and different attributes are required in different situations for a leader. Some scholars put the ability to inspire others as the biggest or the most important leadership qualities. A leader may not possess all the qualities mentioned above. There may be a combination of qualities in his personality with some qualities more dominated than the others.
Leaders may be of different kinds or rather we should say that each field of human existence in a civil society demands specific leaders. There are political leaders, community leaders, sports leaders including the captains in particular sports, and military leaders. All these leaders have different leadership qualities related to their particular field. For a political leader the qualities necessary are statesmanship, oratory, full knowledge of the state of affairs of his region as well as the nation, ability to access the political situation that may develop in the short run and the long run, ability to have understandings and alliances with other political parties.
With all these qualities they are not only able to win the confidence of the people and win elections, but also earn a dominant position in the state assembly or the parliament at the centre. Accordingly, there are state leaders and the national leaders. The former dominate the state scene while the latter the national scene. Those national leaders which have some extraordinary abilities to take the right decisions to bring about socio-economic development of the country are chosen as ministers.
The important among these are the home minister, the agriculture minister, the finance minister and the minister of foreign affairs and the most important among them is the prime minister. He is the leader of the majority party which forms the government. In the present days of coalition governments he is the leader of that political party which wins the maximum number of votes in the elections and who is projected as the likely prime minister during the elections if the party forms the government. He should have the ability to carry the other parties in the coalition in realising the goal of the country during the term of the government.
There are political leaders at regional level who acquire a high stature in the country though serving in their respective states such as Jyoti Basu of West Bengal. The national leaders also include the presidents of India who are not inclined to any political party. They are the constitutional heads and uphold the highest values of democracy. The qualities they possess as leaders are statesmanship, vast knowledge, fairness in attitude and a towering personality. India’s presidents like S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Rajinder Prasad possessed these qualities. Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is also a writer and a scientist besides being an inspiring and respected leader.
Apart from political leaders there are community leaders who primarily work for the development of the community. If the community they aspire to serve is comprised of people belonging to a single religion, the leader should have complete knowledge of the customs, traditions and beliefs thereof. If the community is a melting pot of people of different religious faiths, the leader should have a respect for the sentiments of each ethnic group. He should be secular in the best traditions of our country. The biggest quality that a community leader should have is the enthusiasm to work for the common welfare. He should be able to garner the assurance and support of a majority of people within the community. It should be his earnest endeavour to maintain communal harmony.
There are corporate leaders such as the owners or high officials of big business companies and multinational companies. As leaders they are required to possess a different qualities than those of political and community leaders. The corporate leader should have a proper qualification related to the major business run by his/her company. He should have adequate experience in business and management. There should be an insatiable spirit to achieve newer heights in business and profession. Perhaps the most important quality of a corporate leader is decision making.
He should be able to take right decisions and then implement them in business. Taking calculated risks is the forte of any business professional. A corporate leader should dream big and should have the ability to handle huge human capital and other sources. A corporate leader knows that he cannot achieve his objectives without the support of various types of professionals related to business.
Therefore, he chooses a team of qualified personnel, develops them as per the requirements of his business, trusts them and pays them adequately so that they do not desert him. A corporate leader is, in other words, knowledge of human resource management. Since the basic objective of each company is to earn profit, the corporate leader ensures that with a shrewd pricing and marketing policies. He makes plan for expansion and goes for acquisitions of other companies doing a similar business to create bigger company called conglomeration. In the Indian corporate world, persons like Mukesh Ambani, Laxmi Niwas Mittal, N.R. Narayanamurthy, Azim Premji and J.R.D. Tata and others have been prominent corporate leaders who have achieved great success in business.
There are military leaders who have a different set of qualities. They may be high-ranking officers of like Generals, Air Marshals or even heads of state. A military leader invariably has an imposing personality. Dressed in proper military uniform, he is awe-inspiring and commands respect. He is physically strong and mentally tough. His courage knows no bounds. A military leader does not acquire all these qualities in a day. He has to fight many wars and face many tough situations before he is hardened up.
Discipline is the most important quality of every military leader. From the time he was a rank soldier, he must have been doing all this activities within strict rules, in allotted time and as per given instructions. A military leader has to be highly ambitious. How can he rise to the highest rank otherwise? A military leader has the ability of controlling all below his rank so that they perform their job dutifully. He leads by example and is not afraid of facing extremely dangerous situations himself. Defence of his motherland is foremost in his mind and he is always ready to lay down his life for it. A military leader is at times ruthless. He has to be. He does not hesitate to crush opponents mercilessly and give harsh punishments to traitors.
A military leader has a healthy respect for his enemies. In the battlefield he is willing to decimate them, but on peaceful occasions he bears no enmity against them. Another attribute of a military leader is that he always remains vigilant about the moves an manoeuvres of his opponents so that he is not caught unawares if they spring a surprise.
There are also leaders in sports. In a match or game like cricket, football or hockey the captain guides the team to victory. He should himself have the qualities of a versatile player and perform well as a player to lift the spirit of the team. He should be a shrewd planner and ask his team to exploit the weak points of the opposite team. He should have the ability of changing his tactics to keep the opponents guessing. If his team is not performing well he should be able to access the reasons for it and take remedial steps.
He should be able to maintain the spirit and morale of players in bad patches so that they regain their form. If his team is down or losing, he should be able to lead by example and turn the tables on the opponents. He should be able to keep the fighting spirit intact. What leadership can achieve is evident from the fact that under the captaincy of M.S. Dhoni, our young cricket team was able to win the Twenty-20 Cricket World Cup in September 2007 defeating highly rated teams of Australia, South Africa and Pakistan. The captain should also have the qualities of grooming his deputy to enable him to assume the role of the captain in due course of time.
The leadership qualities cannot be acquired in a few days or months. They have to be developed over the years by dint of hard work under the guidance of the seniors and the more experienced. Some people feel that the leaders are bora, not developed. Certain qualities are inborn and cannot be achieved by any training or education. But this theory is not accepted these days. It is felt that with dedication, determination and earnest efforts anything can be achieved, even leadership qualities.