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Paul Johnson on the five essential qualities of a democratic leader

In the latest Imprimis, British historian Paul Johnson describes the five essential qualities of a leader. Given Britain's crying need for a great democratic leader today, and the upcoming American presidential primaries, his list is timely. Let us know what you think -

1) Ideas and beliefs. "The best kind of democratic leaders has just a few – perhaps three or four – central principles to which he is passionately attached and will not sacrifice under any circumstances. . .History teaches it is a mistake to have too many convictions, held with equal certitude and tenacity. They crowd each other out. A great leader is someone who can distinguish between the essential and the peripheral – between what must be done and what is merely desirable."

2) Willpower. "I think the history of great men and women teaches that willpower is the most decisive of all qualities in public life. A politician can have immense intelligence and all the other virtues, but if will is lacking he is nothing."

3) Pertinacity. "Mere flashes of will are not enough. The will must be organically linked to resolution, a determination to see the cause through at all costs. . .One aspect of pertinacity is patience. Another is a certain primitive doggedness. . . 'It’s dogged as does it’ is an old English proverb. True enough. But doggedness should not be confused with blind obstinacy. . ."

4) The ability to communicate. "The value of possessing a few simple ideas which are true and workable is enormously enhanced if the leader can put them across with equal simplicity. . .But where words fail, example can take their place. Washington communicated by his actions and his personality."

5) Magnanimity "Greatness of soul. It is not easy to define this supreme quality, which few even among the greatest leaders possess. It is a virtue which makes one warm to its possessor. . .Churchill, who also had it, made it one of the top quartet of characteristics which he expected the statesman to show. . ."

And one more thing – “A hero who can make the public laugh as well as admire is likely to have a strong and lasting hold on its affections.”

Johnson's remarks appeared in Imprimis, the monthly publication of Hillsdale College, which I always look forward to reading. Hillsdale, a small and excellent liberal arts college, accepts no federal or state taxpayer subsidies for any of its operations, and is consequently free of political correctness.