Michael McCullough a historian and a popular television host has contributed a lot on the leadership forum, through his opinion on the ideals of leadership. In most of his career, Michael has researched about the qualities that characterize good leaders of the present and past generations. He has published different books, including The Great Bridge, Truman, The Path Between the Seas, 1776, and John Adams. These mainly address the leadership question in the American past, portraying past American leaders as heroes, who are still a source of inspiration to Americans. He compares current leaders with the past leaders to identify leadership gaps. Michael maintains that, leaders today still need the traditional virtues such as hard work, optimism, and strong characters. In an interview with Bronwyn Fryer, Harvard Business Review’s senior editor, in 2008, Michael uses the past and present leadership context of the U.S.A to discuss the qualities of limitless leadership. This paper addresses the main points Michael holds about qualities of limitless leadership, and how a person adopts these to make them a better leader.
Michael considers it essential for leaders to have a sense of history, as history tells a lot about people, as well as causes and impacts of different events. History, therefore, being a continuous human story, repeats itself, and can be a great source of knowledge and guidance for leaders when they are faced with different situations that need decision making. Through history, a leader may discover the level at which the demands of leadership change with time. This therefore, helps leaders to be more flexible in their leadership strategies, as different generations and situations call for different approaches and strategies in leadership.
Discovering talent in other people and harnessing it for the benefit of the society is an important part of leadership. Michael argues that any good leader must be able to spot talent among his people and help them nurture their talents for the good of the society. This promotes personal development among their people, which is core of any country. He describes Washington as a man of integrity, with great capability of discovering talent. For instance, his two best men were initially inexperienced when Washington discovered them. He however, moulded them and shaped them to his standards. In Michael’s view, good leadership views failure as a standard for measuring people’s potentials. He emphasizes that a good leader knows that a person who handles their failure with courage, with no self-pity are strong people with a promising future.
Michael echoes the words of Douglas Southall Freeman, a former military historian, that leadership involves three steps: “know your stuff, be a man, and look after your men.” This means a good leader should be well informed and experienced to face and solve different leadership challenges successfully. They should also be courageous, resilient, and have a strong character. Finally, they should appreciate and take care of their people, apart from bringing out the best in them.
To become a Trumanesque leader, Michael suggests that one must be a good listener, listening to people and addressing their different concerns. In addition, they should maintain their own high standards and appreciate their roles in society. This way, they serve as role models to the people they lead. Such an attitude sets a standard for the rest of the people, which is essential for bringing harmony between the leaders and their subject.
A good leader should be an all-rounder, with the capability to handle diverse issues in the course of their leadership. Michael argues that this leader will also value the future of their country by investing in the mentorship of young people with leadership potentials. This is essential as the young people will grow up knowing the role of a leader, and may not have a hard time or lack ideologies in leading their country, if elected for leadership posts.
This kind of approach by Michael sounds easy to adopt. However, only few leaders today can be described as good leaders. Most leaders face different hurdles at different levels, including personal and societal levels, which bar them from performing to their best in their leadership roles. However, there are still a few people who are good leaders today, serve as an example to the younger generation, and inspire them to be better future leaders. Personally, I feel inspired to become a future leader as I have that influential person from whom I draw my inspiration. My grandfather continues to be a central figure in my life and a real source of inspiration. This is through the ways he moulded my father to be a good dad and husband, and how he has managed to keep our families together.
My grandfather was a school administrator before his retirement years ago. He remains my role model in leadership, as he mentors me to be a future leader. He satisfies most of the qualities of a leader that have been argued by Michael McCullough. First, he is a highly informed man. He has the history of the United States of America at his fingertips. Whenever I visit him, we spend a considerable time talking about different historical events of the U.S.A. including slavery, the wars, and the great depression, among others. He is also knowledgeable in important events happening in other countries apart from America. In addition, he keeps up with the current news and events happening in the U.S and the rest of the world. This adverse historical knowledge enables him to predict different political scenarios and social and economic outcomes of vital events in various countries. He is also thoughtful and seems to have probable solutions to the various disasters facing many countries on the globe. Given his old age, he has a lot of experience and wisdom that he readily applies to problems that confronts him. This therefore, has increased his problem solving skills, making him an ideal leader. His experience as an administrator exposed him to various leadership roles in the past, which strengthened the leader in him. This is because in his work, he dealt with people and managed them on different levels. Therefore, he understands people and has strong people skills.
A good leader must bring out the best in his people. Comparing this with my grandfather, my siblings and I owe a lot to our grandfather. He wants to see us, his grandchildren, prosper in life and be happy. He loves all his grandchildren and when we visit him, he gives us important pieces of advice. For instance, he emphasizes hard work for all of us in our academics for a bright future. Being the eldest of my siblings, my grandfather advises me to always take up the roles of my parents whenever they are out of town, to ensure control at home. Having a strong value and attachment to the family unit, my grandfather emphasizes on stability of my future family, as the family is the basic unit of the society. Without stable families, the society may experience destabilization in different spheres, and a failed leadership system due to unreliable leaders coming from broken families.
Some of my best life moments are the ones I spend with my grandfather. He has a way of bringing us closer to him. He understands us and ensures everyone is comfortable and not disturbed. He is however, authoritative and does not condone deviant behaviour. He is sharp to criticize if he sees one of us going wrong. This is a quality of a leader, a good leader does not wait for evil to flourish in society, instead, they address evils the moment they sense their existence. Our family depends on our grandfather for both moral and spiritual support. He is the anchor that has held us together, through his advices and support. My parents still consult him on vital family issues. However, knowing that we will probably not have him with us all our lives, he ensures to impart us with knowledge and relevant information that will ensure our stability and good decision making, for our future independence and leadership responsibilities. He emphasizes on emotional independence, moral uprightness, and courage as the main thresholds for good leadership.
Fryer, Bronwyn. Timeless Leadership: A Conversation with David McCullough. The Harvard
Business Review. 2008. Web. 19th December, 2012. <http://hbr.org/2008/03/timeless-leadership/ar/1>
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