Hail to the Chief?

Hail to the Chief?

That’s the song they will play on the 20th of January 2017 when President Trump is sworn in. So what are the characteristics of a Chief? As a leader he needs distinguishing characteristics some of which will be of his own making, some of which will be given to him.

First, stature. Misunderstood and even sometimes ignored, stature is the single most important attribute of a leader. It is difficult to define but easy to see. Gandhi had stature, Mother Teresa had stature, the Queen has stature. Many of the farm workers I grew up with had stature. Some offices like President of the United States or Pope invest the holder with a degree of stature but each individual has to acquire, demonstrate and live their own stature.

Stature implies physical size but many people who are not large or tall have great stature. A few think it requires toys like big cars, yachts, mansions but if the person owning these has a small or mean mind they will lack stature regardless of any display of wealth. So the second characteristic of someone of stature is generosity of spirit. This, too, is not easy to specify but fairly easy to spot. Giving credit to others, seeking to find the best in people and situations, innate optimism, all contribute to generosity of spirit.

Leadership requires brains and lack of intellect can be a bar to great stature. Of course, there are people we might describe as having limited intellect but who nevertheless show remarkable courage and kindness – and by doing so demonstrate stature. The aspect of intellect that generates most stature is creativity. I know people whose logical thinking or discipline is often impaired but who have the creativity to solve problems. They have stature.

The fourth requirement of a Chief is moderation. That doesn’t mean that s/he has always to be demure and soft-spoken. There are times for hard words and tough actions, but as displays not as lack of self-discipline. No Chief will be perfect and any Chief will always be a work in progress. An ability to demonstrate self-control in the face of severe provocation is a high requirement for a leader. The outgoing President has certainly demonstrated that.

All of us have the ability to exhibit stature but many who would like to are fearful of risk and so remain hidden in the background. They may still do good work but it will probably remain unrecognised and therefore of limited value as an example. And that is the main point of stature. We learn far more by example than by exhortation. Even when words are used to teach we seldom remember them. But we never forget how we felt at time we heard them.

Will the new Chief set the example the world needs in order to learn to live with almost uncontrollable technological progress? Can he grow into a job about which he has much to learn? Will he discover that wild smiles do not erase the damage done by brutality? May he allow his toughness to speak more through his actions than in excessively harsh rhetoric?

The world is waiting for a leader of stature.

It wants to be able to mean ‘Hail to the Chief’.