It's hard to lead a cavalry charge when you think you look funny on a horse but is it in any way better if you think you look great on a horse? If you think it is your destiny and divine right to lead men into battle and you are at your best in that very position?
What makes a leader recognizable is perhaps the responsibility that he takes upon himself. But it is perhaps a little more than that. Leadership, as any other human relationship, requires the investment of multiple actors. So, there is the leader, taking the weight of responsibility on his shoulders and there are the people that allow him to do so. It is them that give him the mandate to be their leader.
There are types of people which fill up the room and take easily command of a situation. They are easily mistaken for leaders of the group because they typically have the biggest ego in any given circumstance. But, as said before, leadership is a two way street. It is on the one hand assumed but in the same measure, it is given.
I was about seven years old when my village got an ad-hoc assembly for the first time in fifty years. They have met, you see, to make sense of what they were seeing on TV. My village at that time did not have many TV's and the very few that existed, showed quite disturbing footage of the president panicking and fleeing in a helicopter. People on TV crowded in front of the camera and defiled the communist flags and symbols while hurriedly proclaiming their allegiance to freedom fighters. Such a sight was inconceivable even days ago.
We were supposed to prepare for Christmas in a few days. My father managed to smuggle some ham only a few days earlier, so it would have been a good Christmas, as well.
But you see, no one in the village could think of Christmas now. The events that were unraveling on the small screens of our black and white TV's were too bizarre. Some fire shots were heard, as well, though, that still remained a mystery to this day, since no on was supposed to have guns.
Such were those days, when for the very first time, the TV's were showing different things than the predictable propaganda. And so, as we were watching, there was a knock at the door. A man from the village was sent to fetch my father. On a Sunday morning, days before Christmas and with the guilty conscience of the illegal ham in the cupboard, my father hesitated to follow the man. But what could he do? Staying at home might have been more hazardous for the entire family.
He hugged us when he left. He kissed my mother and he followed the man.
It seemed a long time had passed and no time had passed because my mother was nailed to the floor in front of the window. She did not hear or see. the sight of my mother motionless was new to us. we only knew her in constant motion.
But then the door opens and my father comes in smiling and talking in agitation. He was accompanied by other men and they enter and clear the living room. They tell my mother and us what happened: Our small village had an ad-hoc assembly when they saw the communist regime was overthrown. They also overthrew their mayor. They went to fetch my father because they knew him as courageous and principled man. They wanted my father for mayor. And he accepted.
My father was not a political man and at the next election he did not campaign to become mayor again. My father never heard of Douglas Adams in his lifetime, but as him, he was of the opinion that:
"Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job." Douglas Adams
So, after his mandate expired, he went back to accountancy.
But this was the first example I had of leadership. In his case, it was the crowd that recognized and named their leader.
The type of leaders change with the times.
As Michael Hopf writes: “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”
Different leaders are needed at different times. Under stable situations, a man as my father, idealistic and courageous, would have made a mess of the local politics with his principles. They would not have elected him then. But in a time of a schism, you turn to the one that puts his life and wellbeing on the line for the sake of a deontological principle.
It's hard to lead a cavalry charge when you think you look funny on a horse but it is also hard when you think you look great on a horse. And this is because, anyone in the position of a leader becomes a fictitious character in the minds of the people that allow themselves to be lead by him. And we should not forget that every age and place has the leaders it created.