Is leadership the rarest quality of all?

The moving comments I have read about Henry speak time and again to a quality he displayed that appears the rarest of all: leadership

I’ve had an overwhelming response to my recent tribute to my late brother in law, Henry Worsley, the former army officer who died in his bid to be the first person to cross the Antarctic peninsular unaided and unassisted. Thank you.

Much more importantly, the family has been moved and sustained by the incredible generosity of all who were touched by this magnificent man. Although they would give up every penny to have Henry back, the total raised for the Endeavour Fund at shackletonsolo.org in aid of severely wounded military personnel is £318,000 and rising.

Beyond the money, the moving comments I have read about Henry speak time and again to a quality he displayed that appears the rarest of all: leadership.

Of course we can’t all command the Royal Green Jackets, the SAS, or Antarctic expeditions. The degree to which leadership made a difference in each of those situations was genuinely a matter of life and death, but it is clear from dozens of former colleagues that he was a leader who earned the respect of his comrades, put their welfare first and inspired through personal example at all times. He also maintained a steeliness of purpose combined with a calm, humane approach to decision-making.

These leadership qualities are not exclusive to life and death situations. But how often do we see them in life? Look at George Osborne pretending to pull off a coup in “forcing” Google to pay a little tax, when actually it’s laughable to the rest of us. Where too is Google’s leadership? Is a few million pounds in taxes really worth such reputational damage?

Witness our Prime Minister trying desperately to suggest he has triumphed in EU negotiations. Triumph? The very negotiations are a construct to make him look tough ahead of the in/out vote and the subject under discussion so relatively minor in the context of the monumental international migrant crisis to which Britain has contributed so little by way of succour.

Consider the pitiful candidates in the latest Republican primary debate. A succession of ever more repugnant middle-aged men who can’t even walk onto the set without cocking-up, such is the fear and hubris behind every step they take. Trump is seen as the one candidate to speak his mind. But, playing to the basest fears and prejudices of potential voters is not leadership, history has shown it to be cowardice.

Genuine leadership, as Angela Merkel the leader of most substance in Europe has discovered since Cologne, is bloody difficult. Unpopular decisions must nevertheless be made.  Even once popular decisions (like taking in thousands of refugees) can quickly turn sour. Being in power is way tougher than leading in opposition, as Barack Obama, a man who at least tries to lead, has discovered.

Real leadership is not CEOs riding roughshod over morality in The Big Short, nor is it Vladimir Putin or countless others ruling with fear. True leadership is Nelson Mandela, or Richie McCaw the 110-time All Black captain, or yes, Henry and countless other soldiers all displaying the same qualities; inspiring through personal example, with courage, and a phrase so undervalued today: personal integrity.

Stefano Hatfield is editor in chief of High50.com

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