Leaders. Who are leaders? What sets them apart? What makes them different from the ordinary people? Different people have different opinion of what a leader is all about but few could have summed it up better than John. C. Maxwell, according to whom ‘A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.’ A great leader of his time and the 6th president of the United States of America, John Quincy Adams explains that ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’
Leaders are dreamers, they are people who lead the path for others to follow, who cast their own light, their own wisdom, so that others follow. These people often come in many shapes, for many different reasons. Some are abolitionists, while others strive for independence for their homeland. However, what they share in common is the vision, the belief and the determination that has the ability to move people. In form, they are mere mortals but through what they do, they leave a mark for centuries to come, remember and learn from.
1. Abraham Lincoln
First on the list of famous leaders that walked the face of earth is Abraham Lincoln. Considered by many as the greatest American president to have lived, Abraham Lincoln was an epitome of determination. His journey started on a spring farm, where he had schooling of less than year and went as high as not just being the 16th president of the U.S.A but one of the most loved presidents the country has ever produced. Lincoln’s story is about sheer determination to achieve what you believe in. He pioneered the 13th amendment, which eventually lead to slavery in the USA being abolished.
Lincoln faced fierce opposition and adversity throughout his career. Where ordinary men would have fallen to their knees, Lincoln rose stronger, more determined and hungry for success. He was not just bent on success but also was a man with morals. He fought to end slavery, something he considered was paramount. He persevered in the face of adversity even when his friends, his comrades did not think he had a chance. That is what set him apart. That is why children throughout the world are taught about him. There is too much to learn, too much to realize from his story. A story of courage, of determination, of achieving what you believe in and going to any extent and not taking no for an answer, and when it requires, giving your life for the cause.
2. Mahatma Gandhi
Second on the list is Mahatma Gandhi. A pioneer and advocate of non-violence and civil rights, Gandhi is best known for his leadership of Indian Nationalism in the British-ruled India. Throughout his life, Gandhi was involved in many different affairs. He advocated equal rights for women, economic sovereignty and religion and ethnic harmony amongst the people of India. However, what he is remembered for most is ‘Swaraj’, which means ‘self-rule’ and implies towards independence of British-India.
He was a pacifist, an advocate of peace. He wanted India, yes, but he had some conditions and he never went against them. He had a unique philosophy of tackling hatred and animosity with love and good will. Although some underestimated the power of what Winston Churchill called ‘a half-naked beggar’, Gandhi was unmoved. He was determined and he was inspirational. He had already brought the likes of South African government to its knees when he protested against laws which oppressed Indians living there and now he was on his way of ending the British rule in India which had lasted for more than 3 centuries.
He reached out to the common man, captivated them and made them believe. He gave Indians a vision, a vision of freedom which nobody had seen coming, which nobody thought was even possible. But Gandhi? He believed and he made the whole country believe. In August 1947, India was divided into India and Pakistan.
Gandhi had a deep devotion to the cause. He believed that the truth, the right, always prevails. He worked hard for it and gifted India to his countrymen. He was not just a successful leader, but a legendary one. He was modest, brave and a true humanitarian. He served with pride, never compromised on his beliefs, did not do wrong to the innocent, and without dirty politics and plots, which pretty much sums up the politics of the world of today, he outwit the British and uprooted their long dominance. All of that, wearing a single piece of cloth and carrying a stick to walk. As astonishing as it sounds, it clearly tells the story of a man with a mission and a set of beliefs. What better qualities to have in a leader?
3.Ã‚ Martin Luther King Jr.
Another similar figure to the previous two was Martin Luther King Jr., who is known for his endeavors in giving the Negro community in the United States a voice. A true legend, Martin Luther King Jr., continues to be a benchmark for people who want to make a difference. A victim of discrimination himself, he was no ordinary being but a rather courageous person ‘who had a dream’. A true icon to every American and even for people from across the globe, he is to forever be remembered for his role in American liberalism. He had every quality of a perfect leader. He was not just determined to achieve his goals and act as an example for his followers, but he also made sure that the moral part of the campaign did not lose its meaning.
He combatted racial inequality, lead marches, opposed the Vietnam War, and even marched from Washington Monument to Lincoln Memorial with 200,000 followers, where he gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech. His followers included women, children, old men, old women and just about everybody. He was put in jail 30 times but remained steadfast. He was a target of many assassination attempts, one of which was eventually successful. However, the legacy he left behind is never to be forgotten. He has written his name in the golden pages of history. Although he lived for only 37 years, he lead a life of purpose and is one of the most influential people and leaders to have lived.
4. Steve Jobs
Leaders are not limited to limited to politicians, civil-right activists and freedom fighters, but also visionaries. People whose vision, ingenuity and imagination revolutionize the way a certain number of things are done. Whose influence lead to people believing, endeavoring and achieving. This leads to our third and last person on the list, Steve Jobs.
A college drop-out, Steve Jobs only spent 6 months in college. Most commonly known as the founder of Apple Inc., few know about his previous endeavor which included. Pixlar and other different firms.
Steve Jobs was as much of a visionary as one could possibly be. He too had a dream, a dream to revolutionize the IT industry as we knew it. He was devoted to this cause, and already being gifted with exception cognitive abilities, success was imminent. However, his contributions to the industry are nothing short of astounding.
With a bit of creativity, limitless self-belief and determination, and along with that an ability to motivate, an ability to captivate people, to enchant them, Steve Jobs created magic. He was cut out to be an ultimate leader. The fruit of his leadership is Apple Inc., which has given us from out very first iPod to our very last smartphone. We have Jobs’ contribution in our everyday lives. He did not fight any battles, faced exile or torture of any sort, but that does not diminish the fact that he has literally made a life-changing contribution to the lives of millions of people throughout the globe.
5. Alexaner The Great
If ambition is one of the main qualities of a visionary leader, what bigger ambition than to conquer the entire world? Yes, we have Alexander The Great next. Compared to the likes of the legendary Achilles, Alexander goes down in history as one the most successful warrior and leader. He conquered from Ionian Sea to the Himalayas, which made up one of the biggest realms in ancient history.
He was a warrior, a true valiant warrior. He showed military prowess after putting down many revolts and winning great wars like Battle of Chaeronea, where he showed astounding valor to help Philip win the war. He fought countless battles and wars, and stayed undefeated, unconquered. He had the ability to make men believe, to unite them under one flag, for one cause and to make them make the most of their abilities. In his reign, he ruled Persia, Egypt and Greece. He conquered the mighty Persians, the Indians, cut the famous Gordian Knot and showed the world that he was indeed destined to be the greatest general the history had to offer.
When we talk about leaders, we talk about setting an example. Alexander did just that. When the army did not have food, he did not eat either. When the army walked, he did not allow to be carried. He practiced what he preached, showed the people that he was one of them and earned their trust. This way, Alexander became great.
6. Rosa Parks
One rather obscure name outside of the U.S regarding the civil rights and freedom of the black community in the U.S is Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks’ contribution may seem rather trivial at first, however, its impact on the entire community and its self-esteem may never be paralleled. She rose to prominence after she refused to bow down to the discrimination that took place against the blacks in the buses. Served jailed for it, but came back a different person. It was during her time that leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. rose. She was a living example of courage, fought valiantly against the laws that made the black community feel deprived and taught others to do the same. In addition, what Rosa Parks did as a leader was give the women a role in the community, and especially the black women who lived in constant fear in many parts of the U.S. She championed civil rights movements, and collaborated with Martin Luther King Jr. and Edgar Nixon.
She was not just brave but generous. Despite having a family plagued with cancer and having her husband retired from his job, Rosa Parks still gave most of her money to charitable causes and civil rights movements. She had a huge heart and her legacy, her life gives us a lesson of a leader who lead by example. She looked hardship in the eye and did not back down, did not, for once, chose the easy way out. She truly showed what women are capable of doing if empowered. She had the whole community behind her and with that power, she gave them a voice. On 13th November, 1956, segregation in buses was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court of the U.S.
7.Ã‚ Imran Khan
Another leader that struggled and thrived against all odds is the former Pakistani World Cup winning captain, Imran Khan. Blessed with charisma and oratory powers, Imran Khan rose from a cricket legend to a new entry in Pakistani politics about 17 years ago. From that day on, he gave up everything for his one cause, which is to eradicate corruption from Pakistan. A task he knows to be extremely convoluted and difficult, yet he remains resolute.
His weapon is his charisma, his ability to charm people. In a country where the land lords and traditional politics have roots deeper than one can imagine, Imran Khan built his base of followers not on basis of terror, family power or inheritance but by his actions. He did countless number of charities, built cancer hospitals and schools in remote areas and showed the world that human will can conquer all fears. As of today, he is a member of parliament in the National Assembly, with government in one of the four provinces in Pakistan. He continues to mesmerize millions of his followers, who stood more than 48 hours at polling booths to make sure that they voted for him. In Pakistan Imran Khan means hope, Imran Khan means change. A change for good, a change for ‘people power’. It is not a difficult task to find people in Pakistan who are ready to die for their heroic leader. Indeed, he is the Bat Man of Pakistani politics, the one they rely on when there is no hope.
8.Ã‚ Adolf Hitler
Another fearless leader that the world knows was Adolf Hitler. Although infamous, and dreaded for his many atrocities, including the Holocaust, and fascism, one cannot deny his ability to captivate the audience, the people, with the words he spoke, with the act he carried out. What the entire world knows is that Adolf Hitler was a dictator. They know that he was relentless, he was callous and he was evil. Yes, indeed he did force the world into World War 2, but looking at his leadership skills, indeed there is much to learn.
His aim was to establish Nazi rule in continental Europe. He had that one vision and then, he knew what to do to achieve it. He captured the attention of the German public and the army but his oratory gift. He made them believe in the cause and gained support. He created himself a personality, a figure that was the symbol of fear across the globe. In doing so, he also made sure that his enemies knew what they were against. Putting aside his negative side which caused deaths of millions of innocents, the leader part of Adolf Hitler gave the Germans a belief. He was brave, determined and charismatic. According to many historians, his genius lay in his ability to assess weakness of his enemies and exploiting it. History may not remember him with a smile but his impact as a leader was nothing short of incredible.
9.Ã‚ Ronald Reagan
Another famous American leader and hero was Ronald Reagan. Born to a shoe salesman, Reagan had the ability to read the newspaper from the age of 5. He showed much promise from early age and credited everything to his beloved mother. As president, Reagan was the people’s man. He was so popular that in his second he had 97.5% of the votes casted. An unprecedented majority that showed the belief people had in him.
Reagan is mostly known for his economic policies, which are still talked about and taught to students across the globe. He stabilized the economy but controlling inflation and gave thousands of jobs to the unemployed. He emphasized on the importance of defense and increased the budget in the defense area. He took a bold stance against abortion and actively supported prayers in schools. His popularity was unquestioned and his leadership skills were very democratic. He was known to delegate authority when needed and showed belief in people, which was one factor contributing to his popularity. He was a man of his word and not just a brave one but an incredibly intelligent one too. To this day, his diplomatic skills are attributed to the fact that he tore down the Berlin Wall. Not by tanks or missiles, but with words and dealings. Margaret Thatcher said once that ‘Reagan tore down the Berlin Wall without firing a shot.’
His leadership skills revolved around man management. He talked to the demotivated and made them believe. He would talk to people for hours trying to convince them and do a pretty good job in the end. A quality he made use of well and which ultimately lead to his unbelievable success. He was truly one of the best carved out leaders the history has ever seen. Making him the bench mark against the leaders of today would be being too optimistic.
10.Ã‚ Nelson Mandela
Lastly, we have the great Nelson Mandela. A figure that hardly anybody is not familiar with, Mandela stood against a tradition that had been going on for centuries. Mandela fought for equal rights for blacks in South Africa, a similar figure to Martin Luther King Jr in the U.S. He was too, like Luther King, arrested but he was not the one to break down. Subsequently, he was charged for treason and prisoned for an astonishing 27 years. A figure that would make normal men either mentally break down or commit suicide, but not him. He was from a different specie, the one that does not give up, the one that just does not back down. Throughout the years that he was prisoned he was tortured and abused. During his time in prison he became a world-wide symbol of resistance against racial discrimination.
After finally being released, he had no place in heart for revenge. He declared that he does not seek vengeance and has forgiven everyone and that everyone must work together for a prosperous South Africa. He went on to become the first black president the country has ever seen. During his reign, poverty levels also dropped and people saw a father-figure in their president. His leadership was based on doing what was right. He acted as arbitrator between UK and Libya tensions, ran HIV awareness campaigns, and investigated past human rights abuses. He publicly advocated freedom of speech, and was a true believer in democracy. Today, he doesn’t only stand out as the symbol of truth, but also of hope in goodness in humanity. A true revolutionary, Nelson Mandela has various tributes paid to him, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
All these leaders were extraordinary human beings. So much that one could actually believe that they were made out of something else if it was not for science to prove otherwise. These leaders shows us that humans are capable of achieving much more than they think. It also gives us hope that we are not doomed, that for every evil in the society, there are brave people to combat it. We look upon these people with respect and admiration because what they did is remarkable to say the least. They changed lives of people across the globe and gave humanity a good name. They are the reason that this Earth today is worth living in. Some of these are alive, some look upon us from above, and some are yet to come. It is our duty, our responsibility to ensure that we support them, learn from them and be better humans walking in their footsteps.