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Qualities of Good Leaders: Comparison of Past Leaders


Being placed in a leadership role can have many different effects on people.  Being a leader requires a certain type of person with unique qualities.  Having qualities like integrity, empathy, accountability, confidence, and to inspire others (Fries).   These qualities make an everyday person able to lead others when it comes to that time.  It takes a certain type of person to be a leader, and it can be a hard challenge.  Many leaders both past and present are similar in their leadership qualities, and sometimes they have more qualities such as empathy.  It is great to help others to understand what makes a great leader.

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Looking at past leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King Jr. it is important to view the group they were leaders to.  In both Kennedy and Lincoln case they were presidents and led an entire nation.  Although there was a different time period for them both, it is important to note they were similar in their leadership roles.  They both led with empathy, integrity, and confidence.  Lincoln had the belief that everyone should be treated equal and led the nation through a civil war that helped to make this happen.  It was his ability to be confident and to be honest to the people that made him a leader that others followed.  By having that confidence and being honest it made people believe in the same policies that he did with the same enthusiasm.

John F. Kennedy had displayed very similar beliefs and leadership skills as Lincoln and was a president that was not afraid to display his beliefs to others.  He was known for his support to the civil rights movement and ensured that he gave the movement his attention.  While many thought he was to young to be President, he was one that many loved.  President Kennedy had charisma and integrity which helped him to lead others.  By being trustworthy the people did not challenge his ability to lead.  By being honest and following through on his promises it helped people to see how he was a leader.  While he was young, he was a great leader, and a leader like him was is hard to find at times.

Martin Luther King Jr. was the type of leader that everyone wants to become.  He displayed so many leadership qualities and some that would not normally be leadership qualities as well. He had empathy, integrity, was inspiring, confident, and accountable.  Known to many as one of the greatest leaders of all time, he was a nothing short of an outstanding leader.  While he was not leader in the sense of leading a corporation or country, he did lead a movement.  His ability to inspire others to help change and become a part of the civil rights movement, is the most significant part of his leadership skills.  He was not afraid to tackle others on the tough issues and to do it without promoting violence.  When others thought that he would fail as a leader, he dug in a with confidence and accountability to get the work complete.  As a leader he displayed qualities that other leaders did not.  To immaculate his leadership skills is hard, and he was nothing short of awe-inspiring for future leaders.

Looking at the personal leadership challenges of Robert in Carver’s “Cathedral” and Lt. Jimmy in O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”, it is important to note that these characters are not the exact same when it comes to leadership qualities.  Robert displayed independence and inspiration to others, by getting the husband to close his eyes to draw the cathedral.  This gave the husband a brief glimpse in what Robert had to do to survive without his sight.  In Lt. Jimmy’s case it is important to see that leadership sometimes come with sacrifice.  This sacrifice always involves giving something up and is usually personal in nature.  Within “The Things They Carried”, it is important to know they gave up time with family, they lost friends, and they had to fight to stay alive.  By utilizing the personal sacrifices, it shows that there is more depth to be a leader than just being great.

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By utilizing the past and present examples of being a leader, people can understand that although many leaders are not born but are made based on their early life stories.  Looking back over the course of a leader’s life can determine how they acquired certain skills that we look for in a leader.  Many times, it is when they are young that leaders receive these skills from life experiences.  Some major life experiences that influences great leaders can be dependent on a death, a purchase, or even a birth.  These life experiences teach the leaders that although you may go through an adverse moment, the ability to overcome these obstacles are what truly defines a person.

Many people think that a leader is born, but not all great leaders are born they are made into leaders by life experiences.  Within history there are always a story of a great leader that shows the world that a leader is not just someone that leads people, but they also inspire others to be great as well.  By showing the qualities of a leader a person is more often able to have a following based on their beliefs.  Not all leaders are recognized for great things, but they still exhibit the leadership skills, and this is what gives the ability to lead others.  Leadership is a skill that is needed for many phases throughout life, and it is important to display leader qualities when needed.  A big task when it comes to be a leader is to show that the ability to lead others while can be overwhelming it is rewarding in the end.  By looking at past leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. or John F. Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln the qualities they displayed as leaders are necessary to consider a great leader.  Everyone can be a leader, but it takes a special person to become a leader that inspires, has integrity, has empathy, is confident, and is accountable.  By showing these qualities a great leader will change the future.


  • Fries, Kimberly. Forbes. 08 02 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberlyfries/2018/02/08/8-essential-qualities-that-define-great-leadership/. 27 09 2019.
  • Missy James, Alan P Merickel, Greg Lyod, Jenny Perkins. Reading Literature and Writing Argument. Pearson Education, Inc., 2017.

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