Peacemaker: Leaders, Who They Are

Keith Throckmorton

As someone who served in various leadership capacities, both professionally and volunteer, I have always had a keen interest in the successful and non-successful leaders in all environments and positions. Leaders, as a whole, make us who we are. I learned valuable lessons from both types.

Who are our leaders? What do we look for and expect from our leaders? Are our leaders qualified to lead, or are they not? When I evaluate any leader, whether it be the President of The United States, elected officials, chiefs of police, pastors, or anyone responsible for the outcome of a product or any definition of oversite, I evaluate them and question if they are qualified. Are they meeting the expectations of their positions?

Many people are in positions of leadership who are not qualified for what the job expects. Reasons are many as to how this happens in America today. Not everyone is suited for leadership. There are different types of influential leadership positions, but the qualities are the same. Some professional kinds of leaders may not necessarily be successful in other environments.

Military leaders, for example, are usually autocratic due to their position as leaders in combat. This style must be their way of management in this environment. Civilian leaders would not be successful in a military setting. Former military leaders are often not successful in the civilian environment.

We must focus on those in leadership positions and evaluate who they are and their success as leaders. Are they true leaders or just holding an office and failing those subordinates to them? Do they have some knowledge of the environment they are leading?

Whether government, business, fraternal, or even churches, any organization’s effectiveness depends on the qualities and strengths of its leaders. Abraham Lincoln said: “I can promote a colonel to the rank of general, but that won’t make him a leader. Leaders create themselves.”

Why do some governments fail and others succeed? Their leadership. Where does juvenile delinquency begin? It’s leaderless families. Where do slums fester? Leaderless cities. Which armies falter, which political parties fail? Poorly led ones.

What are some of the typical traits of Effective Leaders? They are as follows:

They must be effective communicators. Good leaders are excellent communicators who clearly and concisely explain problems and solutions. They know when to talk and when to listen. Leaders can communicate on different levels: one-on-one, telephone, email, etc. They must be able to reason logically, make decisions, and convey their thoughts.

A leader must be accountable and responsible. They hold themselves accountable and take responsibility for their mistakes. They support and encourage individuality while abiding by organizational structure, rules, and policies to be followed.

They must be long-term thinkers. Great leaders are visionaries. The leadership trait evidences it by planning for the future through concrete and quantifiable goals. These leaders understand the need for continuous change and are open to trying new approaches to solve problems or improve processes.

Leaders must be self-motivated. They are self-motivated and can keep going and attain goals despite setbacks. Good leaders try their best to exceed, not just meet, expectations. A leader must be willing to do everything asked of others and more. Timing is important. It is a combination of alertness, imagination, and foresight. They must have the capacity to hang on five minutes longer and inspire others. A leader must be willing to take chances and ready to experiment.

They must be confident. Virtually all good leaders share the leadership trait of confidence. They can make tough decisions and lead with authority. By being confident, leaders can reassure and inspire others, establish open communications, and encourage teamwork. If a leader does not believe in him/herself, no one else will.

Good leaders are people-oriented. Leaders are typically people-oriented and team players. They foster a team culture, involve others in decision-making, and show concern for each team member. By being people-oriented, leaders can energize and motivate others. By making each individual feel important and vital to the team’s success, they secure the best efforts from each member of the team.

They are emotionally stable. Leaders exercise reasonable control and regulation over their behavior, tolerate frustration and stress, and cope with changes in an environment without an intense emotional reaction. A good leader must possess a firm code of ethics, a strong sense of Integrity, and moral character. Leaders must believe in their followers and the goal they are leading.

On the other hand, a few of the traits of Bad Leaders are as follows:

Bad Leaders are too bossy. They are usually autocrats who push their way or the highway. They often filibuster meetings, not allowing attendees to have feedback. They are fearful of change. Bad leaders do not communicate effectively. They may be unwilling or unable to speak effectively.

They dismiss ideas other than their own. Bad leaders typically do no respect the input of others. They do not like being disagreed with, resulting in false accusations to discredit their followers, intending to shut them down. They seek “yes” people who will support them when there would be no support from anyone else. It may even include bypassing established procedures to get “yes” people.

Bad leaders lack empathy for others. They are inconsistent; prone to blame others rather than accept responsibility for their actions. They are indecisive. Sadly, all too often, “yes” people are dubbed with unearned recognition as leaders. It discredits and disrespects legitimate leaders. Bad leaders who are in positions that they are, lack Integrity and live by “the ends justify the means,” even if they are illegal. Truthfulness and honesty seem to be lacking in a corrupt leader.

Leaders must earn respect from their subordinates. I have always believed that employees can either make or break their leader at some point. Consider who your leaders are and other leaders influencing your lives. Hold them accountable. Truthfulness and Integrity are essential in leadership,

Today in America, it is critical to identify true leaders from the United States President to the lowest first-line supervisor. A simple handshake, at a time, was sacred and a bond of honesty with another person. An oath of office was a commitment to God to uphold the provisions of the promise. These were the trademarks of leaders to be respected. Truthfulness today is more and more compromised with lies to get ahead.

Examine the local leadership of our County of Perquimans. What happens if attempts to circumvent the law concerning the current location of the “Civil War Monument” are thriving. The law clearly states the memorial cannot be legally moved except under extenuating circumstances, which are not present in this case. Yet, the county commissioners appointed a committee and hired (with our tax dollars) a facilitator to study the future of this monument. That is just one example of bad leadership, wherein those in control are kowtowing to special interest groups.

Third president and founding father, Thomas Jefferson, wrote: “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart and in time depraves all its good dispositions.”

Today, there is one example of deception that stands out. Leaders and others take oaths of office to uphold the Constitution and laws of the land. There is a current trend to disregard these oaths, circumvent and ignore laws that oaths were taken to enforce and deceive their constituents.

It is your civic duty to identify and appoint/elect good leaders and purge bad leaders.

Keith Throckmorton, Fairfax County Police (Ret)