I was watching the news earlier this week and happened to catch a segment where the ‘expert’ analysis was comparing the qualities and leadership style of David Cameron with that of Ed Milliband; two men with very different styles, two men who have gravitated to a position of power and responsibility that will either lead a nation into prosperity or further economic decline.

As I watched, and thought; mused and pondered, I began to think about what intangible quality makes someone a leader?  I mean, ask yourself – what is it that gives someone the desire to aspire to be out front? More importantly – what is it that makes others want to follow?

Search through the annals of history and you will not fail to come across accounts of great and inspirational leaders; those who could lead with nothing more than the spoken word and those leaders of such catastrophic ineptitude that you wonder how they managed to convince anyone to enlist in their cause.

Martin Luther King Jr was a man who could get a million men women and children to march upon their nation’s capital; with nothing but the captivating oratory skills he used to deliver the wisdom and dreams contained his words.  John F Kennedy, regardless of his failings, had the fortitude and conviction to lead an entire nation to the brink and back again from global thermonuclear war.  Tony Blair, George W Bush, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler – no matter what we may think of these people personally; many of us would probably cross the street to avoid some in that list or cross four lanes of traffic just to shake one of them by the hand, all of these ‘leaders’ were able to captivate millions and get them to follow them with the power of their charisma, beliefs or words.

When you look around you each day; at work, school, college or university, you see that some people are leaders and others just wish to follow the crowd.

This made me wonder, and lead me to a little Google search to find out, is leadership skills something you are born with or something you can essentially just learn – the answer was, both; with the real question being, ‘but what makes one more effective than others?’

You see, anyone can lead the way, but the sign of a good leader is the masses behind them that are so willing to follow.

When I look to two of the most inspirational leaders I can name, I would surprise some, but not others, when I say that I believe Kenny Dalglish demonstrates this most elusive of skills as though it is as natural a thing to him as breathing; as though it was a latent ability he was born with, and that Martin Luther King Jr appeared to be born to the rigours and challenges of leading from the front as though the ability was grafted into his DNA, perhaps even his soul.

With Dalglish, I see a man who was able to unite a fan-base with just a smile; with a simple request that we should all ‘unite’.  After months of division, conflict, anger and pain, this most amazing of individuals was able to quell the noise without any gusto, without the rhetoric of a rallying cry; no, he simply said he was humbled to have the opportunity to manage the club he has always loved and lead the people, the family that made him feel so at home.

Now, I am not saying that Kenny Dalglish and Martin Luther King Jr are one of a kind, that they possess the same skill set or ambitions or dreams; but I am more and more convinced that leadership, to both men, was a natural calling.

Compare the previous incumbent to Dalglish, in the role of Liverpool FC Manager, and you will see he lead from the front, convinced in his abilities to lead, manage and inspire greatness – but when he looked over his shoulder he realised, apart from a disparate few, that he was not successfully leading the masses, that they had not been convinced to follow him in his cause; he saw that, unfortunately, he was on lonely walk, pretty much on his own.

When you consider that this man was leading a football club who’s very nature is to leave no one out in the cold; to never allow a fellow member of the family to feel ostracised, left behind and abandoned; it makes me wonder, again, was it, is it, perhaps that his leadership abilities was learnt, not inherited, and therefore not as effective as those that perhaps are naturally born to the role.

However, could you ever truly say that leadership ability was in the genes; a skill that could be passed down through future generations to come?  Who can say, who really knows?  A good leader will also stand up to scrutiny; their every decision in hind-sight being proven to be taken for the overall good and not a self-serving goal.

If Kenny Dalglish was to lead me down a dead-end, I would first assume there was something interesting he wanted to show me on the wall, second – assume it was something a little more profound, and when I eventually realised that we had taken a wrong turn I would, with patience and good humour, make light of the situation so Dalglish did not feel embarrassed or that he had let me down.

However, so natural is Dalglish’s ability to lead, to draw you in to his fold, that Kenny would just say “oops, sorry – I took the wrong turn” and do so with such candour that I would feel inclined to follow him even more.

If leadership is something you can be born into, if it is a result of the genetics that make up the individual; I feel ever more confident that the twenty year wait for a domestic title is about to end – that it is an inevitability, that the outcome is quite simply – natural.


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