Readers reply: what qualities should we look for in a leader?

Readers reply: what qualities should we look for in a leader?

The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific and philosophical concepts

Qualities of a leader?

What qualities should we look for in a leader? Tamar, Leeds

Send new questions to nq@theguardian.com.

Readers reply

First and foremost they must own a large seagoing vessel, whose attributes and advantages they proudly boast about at every opportunity. Thus exhibiting their outstanding leader ship qualities. Secondly, in the event that a candidate should appear to be enticingly cheap to appoint (eg by promising universal fantasy tax cuts, Brexit unicorns, bread and circuses to the populace) they should be expected to turn out to be utterly useless; being what we experts call a dead loss leader. ThereisnoOwl

I would have had a different answer even six years ago, but now I would say “no history of assault” would be a place to start … aspirational, I know. Thomas1178

One who believes that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the 1%. JohnFromLondon

A leader trained in emotional intelligence would be a good start. q321gg8cla

Empathy, integity, courage. MerseyMerseyMe

Compassion, honesty, intelligence, energy. And a dedication to democratic principles and the rule of law! TheBorderGuard

Honesty, modesty, truth-telling and consideration for others. tortinwall

Integrity, compassion, focus, ability to think outside the box and see opportunities not negatives. A desire to lift people up and support those who can’t. In fact the polar opposite of our current leaders. Elizabeth Moorehead

Somebody impervious to visible ego trappings! Louis Spritzer

Right this moment I’d just settle for a grownup. lexicon_mistress

Judgment, judgment and judgment. The ability to make the right calls trumps everything.JohnPrice

I’d also say, really importantly, judgment in picking good advisers. No leader can know everything, picking good advisers and listening to what they say is essential. Thomas1178

Someone who didn’t get a degree in PPE and enter into politics as a career rising up through the internal processes of a political party that has no checks to weed out sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists. Someone with empathy, an altruist who will serve a nation without using the position to fuel their own hubris. A wise and shrewd person of integrity and outstanding probity who can command the respect of other nations’ leaders. A person of their word. PlausibleDenier

Today’s world is incredibly complex and nuanced. A leader must be a person able to defer to those with qualification and expertise in areas to which they have been delegated responsibility. A correct choice in that is critical. The overall direction that is the leader’s purview. Beyond that it is delegation. ronnewmexico

I think that the first quality should be a reluctance to be the leader. The person who wants the position the most, who craves the power of leadership, is likely to be the person most unsuited to the position. A leader is someone who puts people above politics or power. MiaSchu

Can you give an example? 2miners

All I’m coming up with is Frodo. Thomas1178

Captain America? Bhangbhangduk

Sam Vimes obviously. Seabeen

Dan Biggar, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton are all examples. gborjones

Jorge Mario Bergoglio: first pope to choose for his papal name the humble champion of the poor St Francis. First public address from St Peter’s balcony he wore a white robe and his regular bronze cross, instead of the fancy ermine-collared red number and gold cross of all the recent popes. Later that year, he stopped his pope mobile and embraced a leper in the crowd. Instead of the posh papal palatial digs, he chooses to live in the Vatican guest house! Urbbchbm

The man in the shack from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. DefinitelyStillAlive

The research of political psychologist and behavioural psychologist Karen Stenner has conclusively demonstrated that leadership emphasising shared experience, goals and the “we” rather than the “me” builds more stable and successful societies. This leadership style also enables people to tolerate and accept nuanced messages about more complex questions such as those involving funding, conflict, social tolerance and responsibility.

The same research shows how divisive leaders, setting people against one another by pushing them to focus on the “me” rather than the “we”, seed widespread fear and vulnerability in populations, which adversely affects social cohesion. In particular these leaders cause the 30% of us who are less able to cope with increasing complexity of their lives more likely to elect those authoritarian leaders offering simplistic and unachievable solutions – as we clearly see with Brexit and Trump. She describes this cohort as having an “authoritarian disposition”. Rachel Wood