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Leadership is a multidimensional phenomenon that has many implications. The context of the leadership concept usage is broad – it includes the characteristics of domination, and it can be used for the reference to the governing forces in the life of society. The social leadership primarily performs the social functions that may be defined by the human capability of the conscious goal formulation, decision-making, and achievement of objectives within the political institutions. And it is possible to say that the particular forms and methods of leadership fulfillment depend on the cultural maturity and background of the society.
Throughout the history, many philosophers attempted to define the ideal of leadership. It is considered that the citizens can have the decent life only in the ideal state, where the leadership is characterized by high moral standards, compliance with ethics, and aspiration for serving and defending people. In this way, leaders are not merely the representatives of the nation, but they may be regarded as the main force influencing the development and prosperity of the society, and it is important for the rulers to strain after the ideals of leadership as a philosophic concept.
Valuable Qualities in Leaders
The style of leadership and its essence is largely affected by the personality of a ruler. The main political views, motives, political background and conditions play a significant role as well. The review of the historicists’ works describing the lives of different leaders from the different epochs and cultures made it clear that the devotion to the higher molar and spiritual principles is of significant important for the rulers’ success both from the universal and subjective points of view. The universal point of view implies the global historical perspective while subjective means the perspective of the leader’s subordinates and a particular period of his/her governing.
The rule of Charles the Great at the end of the 8th century in Europe and the rule of Sultan Saladin in the 12th century in the Middle East region can be considered the examples of successful leadership. According to the writings made by the Monk of Saint Gall, it is possible to say that Charlemagne was largely concerned with the establishment of the integrated state, and he was focused on the religious livability of the nation (59).
Charles paid a lot of attention to the rise of public awareness and incorporation of wisdom and values of higher quality into the social consciousness. By controlling the county’s authorities and requiring them to keep up with the moral principles of distribution and allocation of national wealth, the King addressed the ethical problems and fulfilled the citizens’ needs for spirituality and dignity. In this way, Charles earned the respect of his subordinates and managed to achieve prosperity in the well-regulated country.
Saladin’s rule is mainly associated with the powerful military force, but he also contributed many efforts to the consolidation of the Islamic world in terms of culture and religion. It is said that Sultan Saladin himself was very interested in the Islamic traditions and especially religious ones – he liked to listen to Quran readings and was devoted to the Muslim customs (Allen and Amt 150). The leader’s devotion to the traditions and customs facilitates the strengthening of the national cultural identity, and it appeals to many compatriots. Moreover, it is possible to assume that in the difficult times of international conflicts, the religious and cultural integration helps to motivate the army, as well as the common people, and support their morale.
Importance of Cultural Context
Marcus Aurelius also paid a lot of attention to the philosophical principles of governing. His personal philosophy was based on the principles of purity, the simplicity of life, and emphasizing the value of intelligence and soul rather than focusing on the bodily needs and pleasures (Aurelius par. 16). However, it is possible to assume that Marcus Aurelius’ ideas were likely not widely supported by the citizens of Rome Empire in the midst of the 2nd century. The Romans of those times were associated with the indulgence of all kinds, craving for entertainment and comfort, and the pursuit of wealth.
Therefore, although Aurelius’ ideology is in compliance with the philosophy of ideal state, and although the ruler committed multiple military exploits, his personal views did not perfectly fit into the holistic worldview of the Roman society. Marcus Aurelius’ rule was aimed at the support of people’s dignity and through the promotion of his ideals and values, that can be traced throughout his actions and sayings, he attempted to rouse the nation’s ambition for the fulfillment of greater aesthetic and spiritual needs. However, in this case, the history demonstrates that the mass was the dominating force, and Aurelius’ calls for social changes remained neglected by the majority of citizens.
Philosopher King Concepts in Contrast to Justinian’s Rule
While Marcus Aurelius’ government followed Plato’s principles based on the integration of philosophy and politics, the rule of Justinian regarded as the exact opposite of high standards of morality (Atwater par. 8). In “The Secret History” written by Procopius of Caesarea, Justinian is described as the evil despot who encouraged the spread of immoral habits and actions across the Roman Empire. According to this unofficial version by Procopius of Caesarea, Justinian’s rule was characterized by the lack of control in many aspects of social, economic, and legal performance, and the negative impacts redoubled by the lack of value-oriented ruling (Atwater par. 8).
In his works, Plato emphasized the necessity for the inclusion of the philosophic constructs into the leadership conception. According to his point of view, the main role of leaders is the enlightening of the common people and the promotion of ethics and morality. Leadership thus is the instrument for the introduction of new values and interests into the community. And although the multiple cultural tendencies may influence the success of leadership as well, the politician’s focus on ethics and dignity of the nation may help to detain the moral decline in the society.
Based on the current situation in the international political arena, it is possible to assume that the modern politicians are mainly motivated by the principles of military defense and material prosperity of the countries. The leaders make efforts to accelerate the economic development, but, at the same time, many states, especially underdeveloped ones, are associated with high rates of poverty and social inequality, institutional corruption and crimes. All the facts demonstrate that the ethical and moral principles are not followed by governments. However, the integration of Plato’s view, the concepts of philosophy addressing the spiritual and aesthetic parts of human life into the social consciousness through education and mass media would facilitate the sound development of the global community.
The smart leadership strategies are always based on philosophies and social values of higher quality: spiritual, psychological, cultural, etc. Many prominent leaders of the past managed to achieve significant positive results in ruling nations and improvement of living standards by targeting the problems of religious and educational characters. Nowadays, in the situation of the rapid global integration and increase in the number of the international conflicts, the reference to the positive experiences of the past and the bright ideas of philosophers and thinkers could help to improve relationships and provoke sound social development both at the domestic and international levels.
Allen, S. J., and Emilie Amt. The Crusades: A Reader. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 2003. Print.
Atwater, Richard 1996. Procopius: Secret History.
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Aurelius, Marcus 2009. The Meditations, 167 A.C.E.
The Monk of Saint Gall 1999. The Life of Charlemagne, 883/4.