The Leadership Test

Many aspire to it, but few achieve it: leadership.
True leadership that lives beyond us.
Because it is so coveted, yet so elusive, bookshelves sag under the weight of leadership tomes.
After five decades of studying leadership, and what happens when it goes wrong, Professor Robert Rotberg who founded Harvard’s Program on Interstate Conflict and Conflict Resolution at its John F. Kennedy School of Government has a better sense than most of the values real leadership embodies.

Charlene Smith drew up a leadership checklist based on the criteria in his 2012 book Transformative Political Leadership: Making a Difference in the Developing World*.

The higher your score, the more likely you are to be a leader or have strong leadership potential. It could form a barometer to your career advancement, e.g. Do I truly listen to others, or do I interrupt them as they speak?
Do I denigrate my opponents or do I create the capacity for us to work together for the common good of our nation/company?

Use this to evaluate your boss, political representative, or yourself.

1. The Leader (TL) exhibits the same positive, and inspiring conduct in private and public.

2. TL encourages and motivates.

3. The Leader appears to understand the fears and desires of his/her subordinates.

4. TL has a long-term vision – a grand but simple plan – that benefits broader society, not just The Leader.

5. The plan has the buy-in and motivation of TL’s constituents.

6. TL is dedicated to ongoing education among his/her

7. S/he is empathetic, or as Emotional Intelligence guru, Daniel Goleman suggests: “sensing what people are feeling, being able to take their perspective, and cultivating rapport… with a broad diversity of people.”

8. The Leader is intellectually stimulating.

9. One has a sense of hope in his or her presence, or when one reads or hears what s/he says.

10. TL is inclusive, which Professor Rotberg notes: “brings the aggrieved as well as the satisfied into a big tent. It also telegraphs toleration and fairness.”

11. The Leader knows how to listen – he or she spends “perhaps 70 to 80 percent [of their time] listening, taking in, appreciating, and empathizing.”

12. TL does not demonize opponents.

13. TL has legitimacy – this is not the same as popularity, and it is more than simply winning an election. People have confidence that The Leader intends keeping his or her promises.

14. He or she does not foster a cult of personality.

15. He or she had a parent (esp. a mother) who was supportive and encouraged self-belief and confidence in the child.

16. The Leader has great determination, and is prepared to personally experience hardship, or sacrifices, to achieve his or her goals.

17. He or she does not like ‘bling’ or ostentation, and while well-turned out, does not like a show of wealth, and discourages it in the leadership team.

18. The Leader consults, and will listen carefully to the wisdom of others.

19. He or she does not fear contradicting the popular wisdom of the day.

20. He or she understands that, as Rotberg puts it: “acts of conciliation [are] acts of courage.”

21. The leader is a person like Nelson “Mandela [who affirms] the humanity of his [enemies]. On an individual level, he returned courtesy with courtesy, and respect with respect.”

Created and compiled by Charlene Smith, based on Transformative Political Leadership: Making a Difference in the Developing World by Robert I. Rotberg, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2012.


About Charlene Smith

Charlene Smith is a multi-award winning journalist, broadcaster and documentary film maker. She is the author of 14 published books, including two on Nelson Mandela. Born in South Africa, she has also lived in Japan and Argentina and currently lives and works in Boston as a communications consultant.
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5 Responses to The Leadership Test

  1. Great test and would like to reblog it if you will. Thanks

  2. Pingback: 3 Differences Between Managers and Leaders | TAL Group, Inc.

  3. createthinklive says:

    Reblogged this on createthinklive and commented:
    Transformative political leadership

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