Column: Looking for leaders

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If you ask a teenager for a definition of a leader, you’ll probably get a different answer than if you ask a retiree. If you ask them to name some leaders, it will tell you a lot about what and who they value.

A recent Fortune magazine article about the 50 greatest leaders in the world stated that 36 percent were women. Of these, nearly one-third are activists, meaning they champion a cause. Two are leaders of their nations – the prime minister of New Zealand and the minister of foreign affairs in Canada. The lady leaders of two other nations – Germany and Great Britain – weren’t mentioned.

Do women have a different measurement of leadership than men? In a Wall Street Journal article with success tips for women in the workplace, the following were mentioned: Failure isn’t a game-ender but is a chance to regroup; own your success and don’t be afraid to be bold; debate can be healthy; power comes from succeeding and not from stepping on others; and take the criticism because work fails are not personal fails. Do you think these are gender-specific?

Another article suggests that to be a better leader ask better questions more often, respond with the power of the pause and acknowledge the question with a meaningful answer.

Are leaders born with this ability or do they acquire it? Probably some of both, since our basic personalities and intelligence come with our birth, but being exposed to good leaders is another important factor. It would be worthwhile to have conversations with young people about leaders you admire and, if possible, introduce them. Also, ask who they admire as leaders and discuss why they value their leadership. Both of you will benefit.

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