Leadership is a gift. It is a gift that one could rationally apply the 80-20 rule to: for every 100 people, only about 20 of them will have the gift of leadership. On the face of it, this may seem like a pessimistic statement. But in reality, leaders are meant to take charge of larger groups of people, so it only makes sense that a small percentage of people will have the gift of leadership. But leadership is also a skill. It needs to be developed. Some people who do not have the gift of leadership can develop the skill to some degree, and some people who do have the gift, never develop the skill. Moreover, it is essential to understand that, when referring to leadership as a gift and a skill, we are talking merely about the ability to lead. There are many different ways to lead effectively, and any one of them is a sufficient mode of leadership. That being said, many forms of leadership are not sufficient. When looking at the fictional characters ‘Robert the blind man’ and ‘Lt Jimmy Cross,’ as well as John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, we see various forms of good leadership manifested.

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Robert the blind man is a Character in Raymond Carver’s poem “Cathedral.” He cannot see, he has lots of problems, he drinks and he smokes marijuana. But what qualifies him as a leader is when he tells the narrator to close his eyes and draw a cathedral. This experience happens to be a turning point for the narrator, who gains a new perspective on life. Though Robert can be understood as a bad influence, his leadership style is worth noting: he helps the narrator to let go of his own routine, try something new, and trust in someone else. Robert’s approach is very hands-on, very attached to the person he is leading.

Lt Jimmy Cross is very different from Robert. He is put in a leadership role by virtue of rank. As such he is responsible for many other solders. He cares deeply for his men, but his also leads him to feel guilty for anything that goes wrong that might possibly be his fault. As a leader, Cross is effective to the extent that he cares deeply for his men and offers his best effort. But in other senses he is lacking because he worries so much that the very things he worries about can lead him into mistakes. One might even say that Cross could be categorized as a micromanager who is unable to delegate or trust.

Contrasted with these two men are the figures of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Lincoln is arguably one of the best examples of leadership in the history of the United States of America. One of the things which made Lincoln a great leader was his ability to communicate: “He made concepts simple and communicated with an understanding of the concerns of the citizens” (10 Qualities that Made Abraham Lincoln a Great Leader). The ability to communicate is one of the most elemental aspects of leadership, it is a prerequisite to it. It is impossible to be a good leader without being able to communicate clearly and effectively to the people being lead. But this is not what set Abraham Lincoln apart from other leaders. What set Abraham Lincoln apart was his “Ready willingness to share credit for success” (10 Qualities that Made Abraham Lincoln a Great Leader). Too often, when people are leaders and are good at it, they let it go to their head and become conceded and save all the credit for success for themselves. Not so with Abraham Lincoln. He was sure always to award credit wherever it was due.

Another great leader in American history is none other than John F. Kennedy. While other leaders were perhaps more forceful or more legalistic, Kennedy was able to see his visions come to life without making them feel forced; he was able to convince others of his plan, and help them make it their own. Moreover, “Kennedy knew how to challenge the advice and assumptions of so-called experts” (Lead like John F. Kennedy). Kennedy knew what he wanted to do. And Kennedy also knew what would work. Many times his ideas were contradicted by experts in the fields of politics, economics, etc. But he always found a way.

One common thread among each of these leaders is the theme of integrity: knowing your goals, being open about them, and pursuing them in a just and compelling manner. Each leader that we have discussed exhibited the quality of integrity in his own unique way. Robert the blind man was patient and willing to work with the narrator to show him something meaningful. He did not grow impatient or ever write of the narrator as foolish or not good enough. Cross had integrity because he was willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to do his duty and protect his troops. Lincoln had integrity because he was willing to share credit, as well as accept blame. And Kennedy had integrity because he never compromised on his vision for his country. All these leaders exhibit valuable qualities to the art of leadership. That being said, another thing we see from this is how different each leader was; they all lead in a different, yet successful way. This only goes to show that at the end of the day all that matters is integrity, and finding a way.