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The qualities required for good leadership

There is a universal code of good leadership that has a mix of resolve, empathy, discretion, education and inspiration that generates confidence, trust and admiration. Good leadership is not status, prestige, privilege or money. It's responsibility and accountability.

No person ever succeeds to an important position solely by his or her own efforts. Even before the individual is aware of his and/or her existence, powerful influences already are helping to shape his or her future. Parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, teachers, colleagues and mentors prepare the way, be it for good or ill. There are two imperatives that we should highlight and these imperatives grow more important and more complex daily: education and trust.

Education not only opens social and economic doors, but also opportunities to be of service to our fellow men. It is often said that we are now in an era of lifelong learning that merges work and education, and to make progress, good leaders must not only be competent in the basic skills but also know how to think and communicate, adjust to change and be able to absorb new ideas and effectively transmit them to others.

A leader's success is more often than not a direct result of continuing to learn throughout his or her career. Consequently, they are better able to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. They are true entrepreneurs by adding value to value in whatever they do.

One of the most difficult lessons to learn is to develop their ability to listen and learn. My grandmother would often say that it is no accident that we have two ears and one mouth, and our ears should work harder than our mouth. The simple lesson that we can learn is that we should carefully listen and speak even more carefully. We never learn anything while we are talking. People are often anxious to share their thoughts and ideas with us if they believe we are listening, thus showing an interest. It will be surprising to know how many good suggestions we can acquire from people at all levels if leaders would only listen. The day leaders stop listening to people is the day you have stopped leading them.

I have come to the conclusion that trust is the most important quality of leadership. Trust is a relationship of expectations and reliance. Trust, at its core, means respecting the other person's point of view, their diversity and difference. Mutual trust demands civility and respect. Trust makes it easier for people to work together. Trusted leadership inspires confidence, reliability, responsibility, predictability and integrity. A trusted leadership is the glue that keeps everything together. Mistrust is the enemy of good leadership and good governance.

Good leadership is personified by good governance that is based on good ideals: good ideas that are based on respect for facts; rigour in thinking; rationality in debate and civility in discourse. Leaders should guard against emotion getting in the way of common sense and sound facts. Daniel Moynihan, the late professor and United States senator, once observed that we are entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts.

Good leadership is responsible for creating an atmosphere that fosters the right combination of discipline, imagination and openness to the constructive criticisms of peers and the active encouragement of diversity of views. Good leaders must also create and sustain an environment that actively — indeed, proactively — encourages collaboration on projects with professionals with different viewpoints, and even collaboration with other agencies.

It's worth repeating that leadership is not status, prestige, privilege or money. It is responsibility, accountability and the ability to work with people to get the very best out of them. This sends a message of understanding, friendship and confidence. It reinforces the premise that every job is important and individuals are valued. This is likely to lead to creativity, improvement in morale, increased productivity and a stronger sense of commitment.

A good leader is accomplished, trustworthy and exercises a strong sense of accountability and civility.

• Sir John Swan was the Premier of Bermuda from 1982 to 1995

Earning respect: successful leadership is responsibility, accountability and the ability to work with people to get the very best out of them. This sends a message of understanding, friendship and confidence

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Published November 25, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated November 25, 2015 at 7:33 pm)

The qualities required for good leadership

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