The Dual Virtues of Leadership

The goal of this article is the presentation and explanation of the two virtues that I believe to be essential in ideal leadership: selflessness and a love for others. In my previous article, “Virtue in Leadership,” I explained my rationale behind my desire to see a virtuous leader as President of the U.S. This prompted me to consider what virtues an ideal leader would possess in any job. Setting aside the discussion of capabilities in leadership, which is indeed incredibly important to consider, I wanted to know what virtues alone would motivate an ideal leader, and why. My idea of quintessential leadership was formerly a rather undeveloped compilation of revered leaders throughout time. In my mental revision of this idea, I selected several leaders as representatives of my idea, and examined them as to why they held value in my notions of healthy leadership. Upon undertaking this mission, selflessness and a love for others are the only two supreme virtues I think to be worth noting. Both are already generally esteemed by the public. Nonetheless, understanding their sovereignty (or lack thereof) in a leader’s mind is crucial for those being led. As love appears to be the cause of selflessness, I will present my thoughts on the secondary virtue, selflessness, stemming from the greater, the love of others.

Considering selflessness in abstraction it may seem somewhat simple: caring less for oneself. Understanding the ramifications of selflessness, however, is much more complicated. We rarely see selflessness wholly, due to humanity’s fallen and thus selfish nature. We glimpse selflessness in the setting aside of typical human evils such as gratuitous self-glorification, rash judgments made in pleasure or rage, and arrogance in our limited capabilities. We are all guilty of these actions to some level. Selflessness in its conviction teaches us to negate these things. Therefore its value is primarily held in being a countermeasure towards selfishness. If a leader’s mindset consists of selflessness rather than selfishness, this will assist the leader in the casting aside of irrational, biased thinking and decisions. When a leader’s rationale is not anchored to his personal varying partiality, selflessness frees those being led from many possible dangers. Now that we understand the instrumental nature of a leader’s selflessness in protecting his people, we may better view the greater virtue from which I believe selflessness derives its existence.

The virtue I hold to be essential in an ideal leader is the love of others. If we desire to effectively cast off our selfish love, love for something else must in turn guide us. We see through the past and present that humanity is bound to complete every action through being driven by a love for something. If a leader specifically were to cultivate a love for his people, self-love would have to fade. Love for his people would usher in selflessness. Thus, a direct correlation between love for others and selflessness is inevitable. For a leader to seek to effectively lead his people, he must desire to see his people flourish. How could anyone desire to see their people flourish without first loving them? Some readers may draw to mind Machiavellian principles of effective and ferocious leadership, which could be used to argue against my two presented virtues. However, Machiavelli’s advice is meant to preserve a leader’s power, not effectively guide his people. These two ideas operate under the same concept of leadership, but are vastly different. With this distinction drawn, these objections would have nothing to do with effective leadership. Rather, effective leadership of a people group may be found in serving them, not vice versa. An ideal leader seeking to guide his people out of love for them will encourage them, embody their best interests, desire their happiness completely, and ultimately in love see them as greater than him. For the follower of Christ, we witness the fruition of this idea of perfect love solely in the mortal and immortal life of our King Jesus.

In conclusion, I have found that an ideal leader seeks to lead ultimately out of love for his people, and consequently with selflessness. For his people to flourish is therefore his greatest goal. Clearly, no human being other than Jesus Himself has ever perfectly embodied these characteristics. Of what use then is this newfound discernment? As stated earlier, these virtues are present in everyone to some extent, and are often viewable through an individual’s actions and dialogue. We must then weigh what practical capabilities a significant possessor of these virtues has to offer. I hope for these considerations to be helpful for my readers in any situation, and especially in considering voting in the 2016 presidential election. Regardless even of that outcome, for those in Christ, may you take pleasure that we are under an ideal ruler for all of eternity.