It is evident that some people play a more significant role in the development of history, pushing the envelope and driving social and political life of a country. Traditionally, such people are considered to have more developed leadership qualities. It is worth mentioning that the concept of leadership is significantly broad since it includes numerous characteristics. It is possible to observe several of them: the ability to take responsibility for a vast amount of people, to make decisions which appear to be hard and not pleasing everyone, to have higher moral and ethical standards, etc. These leadership qualities are traditionally attributed to the political figures; however, ordinary people can also employ such attributes in conducting their duties. This paper aims to address characteristics of leadership in the context of the chosen readings from the textbook; also, the correlation between the integrity and leadership will be discussed along with the personal opinion on the topic.
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Historical Figures as Traditional Representations of Leadership
Abraham Lincoln as a Leader
It is possible to start the discussion from the observation of personality of Abraham Lincoln, who is considered to be among the principal figures in the establishment of America as a great country. He was the 16th President of the United States, and he was assassinated in 1865. It is worth mentioning that one of his most significant achievements is his leadership throughout the Civil War, which was an immense crisis in different aspects of country’s social and political life. As a result of the war, Lincoln was able to overcome the political and moral crisis, to preserve the Union, and to establish the constitution which became the foundation of the contemporary political system of the U. S. Another Lincoln’s achievement is the Emancipation Proclamation, which served as the basis for the further abolition of slavery. Therefore, it is possible to observe that Abraham Lincoln represents a traditional notion of a leader because he was able to take responsibility for the whole country and to lead it through the crisis to prosperity.
John F. Kennedy as a Leader
The role of John F. Kennedy, who was the 35th President of the United States, in the American history could hardly be underestimated. He is known to be among the most famous and influential American leaders. First of all, his proposals on the improvement of civil rights paved the way for the further legislation of Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is also should be mentioned that, excluding many other political decisions (which sometimes were controversial or had a long-term adverse effect), John F. Kennedy is considered to be one of the greatest orators of the 20th century. His ability to perform as a speaker had an immense impact on the American nation. Many of his speeches are considered iconic by the current studies in rhetorics. This characteristic also falls into the category of leadership qualities.
Examples from the Chosen Readings
The Things They Carried
In the literary piece, written by Tim O’Brien in 1990, a very perplexing dilemma of correlation and contradiction between the personal desires of an individual and his or her duty is presented. The primary character of the story under consideration, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, is a 24-year-old guy, who is commanding a military squad during the Vietnam War. He is torn apart by his love for Martha and his responsibility for the people under his command. The author uses the word “carry” as a metaphor for all the burdens and responsibilities, both physical and psychological, that the soldiers have during their service. After one of his soldiers dies, Jimmy Cross feels as he is responsible for his death, and he decides that there is no more room for feelings of affection. He claims that the core of leadership is “not to be loved but to lead” (O’Brien 495).
The second short story under consideration is entitled “Cathedral” and written by Raymond Carver in 1983. This literary piece represents another perspective on the understanding of the concept of a leader. Robert, the blind man who has a long-lasting friendship with the wife of the primary character, pays a visit to the married couple. As they sit through the evening and watch TV, the husband tries to explain to Robert what a cathedral looks like, but he fails in doing so. Further comes the principal event of the story: Robert asks the husband for a pen and some paper, and then invites the man to draw a cathedral (Carver 445). Robert puts his hand on the man’s hand to follow its movements, and later he tells the husband to close his eyes and continue drawing. This episode represents a very moving metaphor for the notion of leadership. A leader here is described as not someone who commands and places orders. Instead, it is implied that leadership comprises guidance and support, which appears to be mutual, making the roles of a leader and a follower interchangeable.
Personal Opinion on Leadership and Integrity
Furthermore, it is possible to provide my personal opinion on the topic. First of all, it is essential to mention that both literary pieces had a significant impact on me. The necessity to choose between personal feelings and the duty in favor of the latter is, indeed, a sign of a real leader. However, the second literary example was found to be more corresponding with my worldview. In everyday life, people rarely have a chance to be a leader in the general sense of the word, but it is always possible to treat one’s responsibilities as an opportunity to lead the other person to something better (or to learn something new by following other people’s guidance). In my opinion, such representation of the concept of leadership is strictly connected with the integrity, one the University’s Core Values. The interrelations between people, who make use of their responsibilities and abilities to take care of other people, can form a society in which integrity would be one of the fundamental principles.
Finally, it is possible to come to several conclusions. First of all, the examples of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy as the traditional representations of a real leadership were discussed. Secondly, two literary pieces were explored to retrieve the authors’ ideas about the nature of a leader. Thirdly, personal opinion, connected with the notion of integrity, was provided. In overall, it should be concluded that the concept of leader, being significantly broad, still comprises the prevalence of responsibility-taking and guiding people in nearly all interpretations.
Carver, Raymond. “Cathedral.” Reading Literature and Writing Argument, edited by James, Missy et al., 6th ed., Pearson, 2016, pp. 436-447.
O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried.” Reading Literature and Writing Argument, edited by James, Missy et al., 6th ed., Pearson, 2016, p. 482-495.