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The true leader

Some time ago I read a story by Paulo Coelho. In this story he profiles three world leaders from the same period in world history. His question: who, based on the given information, do you think is the best leader?

Leader 1 had connections with quacks and consulted astrologists. He had two mistresses. Smoked a lot and drank between 8 and 10 martinis per day.
Leader 2 got fired everywhere because of his arrogance. He spent most of his mornings sleeping. Used opium when he was in high school, was a terrible student. He was famous for starting his day with cognac.
Leader 3 was knighted as a hero. Vegetarian, didn’t smoke and had high discipline. Every once in a while he drank a beer. He stayed with his wife his entire life.

About whom are we speaking? 1 is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 2 is Winston Churchill and 3 is Adolf Hitler.

This justifies the question: what is leadership? The encyclopaedia tells us it’s the capacity of one person to motivate others to strive for the same purpose. Earlier this week I had the chance to follow the Leadership Effectiveness course of the Management Research Group ( in London. They define the role of a leader as: ‘making certain things happen’. Leaders are often idealised by us. Noble characters who lead us through confusing times. This seems increasingly the case. Leaders aren’t permitted to have human flaws anymore. We are searching for the ideal leader, the man or woman without any flaws. Rhetorically strong with Obama as a shining example.

But in reality, the big decisions in history were made by ordinary people. The big difference is that these people had the courage to make decisions at difficult times.


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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