Contrary to popular belief, leadership and power are not synonymous. There are many individuals with influence and power that are not particularly leaders. The perfect example is Oprah Winfrey, she is such an influential personality and is considered one of the most powerful women in the world, however, she is not a leader in the traditional sense. Similarly, there are leaders who are not necessarily in a position of power. Steve Jobs was the quintessential leader of our time, and despite his power in the company (Apple Inc)being severely comprised several times during his career, he led what can be seen as the technology lifestyle revolution.
Famous Greek philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle believed that leadership comprised of vision, ethics, oral prowess or the power to persuade, conviction, selflessness, and sacrifice, but also the ability to listen to and understand different viewpoints. Throughout history, there have been such leaders who have, because of these attributes, shaped the world as we know it. The following are some of the leaders who made a great impact on the world or at least their countries.
Alexander the Great
Born a prince, Alexander was destined to be in a position of power from the onset however his leadership resulted in one of the most famous and largest empires ever. Thrust into power at the tender age of 16, he followed the teachings of his tutor, Aristotle and by the time he was 30 had conquered most of the known world. Although mostly remembered for his military leadership, Alexander’s legacy is the fusion of different cultures and races all from a perspective of mutual respect.
Another military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte is often referred to as a child of the French Revolution. He is best remembered for his small stature but big ambitions and his leadership led to some stability in France and to some extent, Europe. His legal reform, the Napoleonic Code remains a major influence on civil law jurisdictions across the world.
Also known as Shaka Zulu, this is one of the most famous Chiefs in South Africa. A military legend, he is recognized for uniting the Nguni clans. He is, however, not given enough credit for the strong Zulu kingdom he created and this is largely due to the brutality this involved but a lot of what he achieved was based on diplomacy as well.
America’s 16th president is also arguably its most recognizable. Abraham Lincoln’s legacy includes leading his country through moral, civil and military crisis. He is recognized for legally ending slavery in North America, and is remembered for his rousing speeches. Most people are, however, unaware of the fact that Lincoln was mostly self-taught and although he became a lawyer, he failed to secure a seat in the United States Senate several times before being elected as President of the Federation.
A notable statesman and orator Winston Churchill served as Prime Minister for Britain Twice, most notably in the second World War. His speeches and radio broadcast inspired the people of Britain to resist Hitler’s German army.
Incarcerated for 27 years, this South African leader led with both diplomacy and urgency even while behind bars. His background as a lawyer may have assisted in his objectivity on various issues but it is his leadership which enabled a negotiated democracy. A world icon, Nelson Mandela’s legacy includes the creation of a nation with such rich diversity as well as one of the world’s most progressive constitutions.
Obama is a sublime orator who overcame controversy on his religious, racial and political beliefs to become the first black president of the United States of America. His slogan promising change remains a challenge which he has risen to remarkably well given the political and economical circumstances under which he must lead. He has stuck to most of his deadlines however time is ticking for him as most of his allies have been voted out of office, most recently, Sarkozy in France.
There are many other leaders who deserve to be mentioned here for their contribution to society as well as incredible leadership however we would like to find out who else you would put on this list and why?
Writer: Katlego Modipane