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A leader is a person who is able to attract a following in pursuit of a given goal while articulating values that are acceptable in the society. There are many leadership styles; for example, democratic, dictatorship and autocratic leadership. We as leaders identify the style that we would like to use and develop us for future opportunities. Leadership on the other hand is the ability to give guidance to individuals who follow it in order to achieve an intended mission. Leadership is an art; it involves both action and influence. It is a social process that is developed through experience as we practice it over a period of time.

Leaders are not born but they are made. It takes willpower and a strong leadership desire for one to become a leader. Through proper training, education and experience, strong leaders develop. While leaders acquire the skills through training, the knowledge and the skills they possess are influenced by the individual traits and attributes. These traits and attributes include; beliefs, values, ethics, and character.  Strength is of paramount importance in any leader as it enables them to accomplish the responsibilities assigned to them. They should also have a sense of understanding problems that human beings face.

The key ingredient to successful leadership is character. Character is built through the demonstration of certain traits which are vital in leadership practice. Values are the reason we are what we are as human beings. Our values help us to make our daily choices and decisions in life. As value based leaders, we are able to reflect and identify what we stand for and, what matters to us most. As leaders we must be willing to look inside ourselves, reflect on our past and strive to achieve even greater awareness. We should be in a position to look at an issue from all possible dimensions with an open mind to gain a better understanding of the situations at hand. Humility is an inevitable value in a leader. As leaders we should humble ourselves and treat each person we encounter with great respect.

As leaders we know what we value and we recognize the importance of ethical behavior in our leadership style. Our leadership values and ethics must be visible and tangible because they are reflected in our actions. If we identify, live and practice our values everyday in the areas where our skills are demonstrated, then we will create a level of trust among those we serve. As leaders we must chose the values and the ethics that are most important to us, those that we believe in and that define our character. It is important to develop and depict a character of high integrity, honesty, be loyal leaders, respect and demonstrate the same among the people we serve and be selfless in relinquishing our duties as leaders.

Integrity refers to the demonstration of honesty in all aspects of a persons undertaking. Integrity leads to trustworthiness in any field that an individual endeavors to undertake. Since integrity is a trait, being a leader of integrity will lead to a respected organization by the employees as well as the general public. As leaders, we can only prove our integrity through our action and the decisions that we make. Integrity in leadership also means that we deliver our services with honesty. By doing this, our organizations will trust us with the dealings that we engage in as well as the way we manage people.

Leaders who demonstrate integrity act morally. Nelson Mandela was the first president of South Africa. He demonstrated this trait of integrity immediately he was released from prison. When he was asked whether he hated the white people and especially the Afrikaners who had imprisoned him, he replied “no I don’t hate anyone, I hate racism”. Having been imprisoned for twenty seven years, he would have wanted revenge, but he acted with integrity that led his country through to reconciliation and eventually to a peaceful transition (Ethos Group, 2009). He asserts that “Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility”.

Honesty is an act of being sincere, truthful, trustworthy and honorable. Honesty is telling the truth without disambiguation. An honest person demonstrates truth and integrity traits in their undertakings. We as leaders should tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Honesty is a virtue that acts as a signature in our higher values as leaders. If we are honest in our businesses and organization as leaders then we will be able to add value to our lives and to the lives of those people who live around us. When we are honest with ourselves, we are able to identify our strengths and weaknesses as leaders, our team members as well as those we work with are able to admit and address the weaknesses and challenges we encounter as an organization.

Abraham Lincoln was once the president of the United States who depicted major aspects of integrity as he served both as the president and also as a member of Illinois legislature. People recognized his integrity and asked him in several occasions to act as a judge in various contests, fights and arguments. His judgment was considered final as the people had already rated and he had also demonstrated that honesty, integrity and impartiality. His moral consent was honesty and a deviation from the same was poorly defended by him (Great American History, 2009). “Character is like a tree and reputation is like a shadow”. The shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing”.  These are the words of Abraham on honesty.

Loyalty is an emotional commitment that leads to the establishment of a relationship as a result of mutual trust, a feeling of attachment, such that an individual is willing and ready to sacrifice for an entity or country. Individuals can be loyal to their country by working hard in their country so as to develop families, societies, and ultimately the country.

As leaders we should inspire loyalty by first looking within ourselves, making a decision on being true to ourselves, to our passion and to the paths we are meant to trail in the execution of our duties. Leadership and loyalty are inseparable and go hand in hand. While many successful leaders share many characteristics in common, great leaders recognize that loyalty is two way. Great leaders value the simple rule that you will not receive what you will not give. Loyalty acts as a commitment of allegiance that a person has on his/her country.

Sergeant Major Dan was one of the nineteen who received a congregational medal of honor for his loyalty. He defended his position against repeated attacks and casualties who were inflicted around 200 on the attacking Boxers. He lamented that” I would rather be an outstanding soldier than any other officer” (Carl, 2012). 

Leadership is a journey of discovery, where we as leaders not only discover our potential but we also learn from them in our endeavors. It provides an opportunity for us (as leaders) to express ourselves in an attempt to achieve the goals set and to nature the character of those that we lead. We are regarded as great leaders if we carry out tasks from our heart and we consider the hearts and the feeling of the people we serve as we undertake the noble task.

Leadership is developed over time through experience. Values and character are the ingredients that result and make great leaders who demonstrate humility, integrity, loyalty and honesty in their leadership style. Great leaders are those who are able to endure the test of time in the execution of their duties. They depict courage, selflessness and adopt servant leadership in and among the people they lead. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther the King and Sergeant Major Dan are among some of the great leaders who demonstrated strength in their tenures and left memorable quotes and legacy which is being tapped from generation to generation.

We as leaders should identify our leadership styles that will help identify opportunities in the future. Leaders today should exercise integrity and honesty without fear, regardless of the costs involved. Since leaders are made and not born, we should strive to acquire the necessary skills which will be reflected in our styles of leadership with a view to leaving a positive mark and changing the lives of those who we serve.

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