Who is a leader?

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Ouch! Well, are you the rider who’ll mend the shoe just when the nail comes off or you’re one of those dim-witted riders who’ll have the whole kingdom fall down before you realize the importance of the nail?

Where does this proverb come from? I was sitting and wondering how to start my article on ‘Who is a leader’, just then, as usual my personal search engine, my husband, Girish Pillai came to my rescue and reminded me of this very adequate and entertaining proverb. We had a good laugh at its meaning and I started with my article. It is important for you, my readers, to know that the word ‘want’ here does not mean ‘desire’, it means ‘lacking’.

So, who is the rider here? Is he a person who is in charge, a boss, a leader?

Someone who has an enviable top position in a company or an organization?

  • Yes, maybe.

Someone who is supposed to be revered?

  • Yes, of course.

Someone who is grand and arrogant?

  • Definitely not.

Someone who has to be flattered?

  • Why on earth?

Someone who you should give implicit obedience to?

  • Not really.

Someone who believes that he’s a God’s gift to human kind?

  • Ugh… No, please.

So how should an ideal leader be? And who he or she is, exactly? Can a mom, who is a housewife be called a leader? Or a teacher who is teaching in a school be called a leader? Or is being called a leader the sole prerogative of politicians and top honchos?

Well, a mom is a person who is constantly setting an example, she is the fulcrum of her house; she is the spindle on whom, her family rotates; her kids imitate her, look up at her for guidance and love and assurance. She is a mommy to her husband when he is down in the doldrums, she is his support system. She has little army of her own to run her house. So, obviously she is a leader.

As for a teacher, how can she not be a leader? She or he is building the future of so many kids, she is being listened to, her words remain in the little minds for years to come by, she or he makes or breaks a student’s career. Sure, she is a leader.

So, a person who has the ability to inspire and lead a group (never mind whether the group consists of 2 people or two million people) is a leader in his or her own right. And he or she better have the ability and qualities to lead, for he or she owes it to his or her people.

Today’s leader has to be a rocking fellow, someone who is chilled out enough to be able to drop his ego or whatever unnecessary baggage he or she may be carrying. In short, no one with a pig head, but a fellow who has the gumption to drop his arrogance and take the initiative.

In twenty years of my career, I have had the privilege to meet some very exceptional people, whom we can call the crème de la crème of society. People who wield power, people who make heads turn and surprisingly most of them have had one common attribute in them—‘they have all had an ability to keep their heads on their shoulders. They carry their success with such ease and finesse.

These guys do not wait for people to come ahead and greet them, for they understand human nature and understand that most people are too unsure of themselves to make the first move. They instinctively know how to make people comfortable. Their inherent quality of reading people’s mind helps them in conquering even their foes.

Here are some admirable features of a successful leader that I have appreciated in the leaders I have met. If you are the boss or are aspiring to be one, why not check out if you have these qualities? You could put a tick across the one you think you have; and cross out the one you think you need to work upon.


  1. An ability to instantly make people feel comfortable
  2. An inherent quality to understand the requirements of people
  3. Exceptional ‘Listening skills’
  4. Zero prejudices (which of course is a quality that has to be acquired over a period of time and after a lot of practice)
  5. An ability to accept other people’s suggestions and opinions
  6. A quality of allowing people to take their own decisions
  7. Secure and comfortable in his or her own skin
  8. An ability not to get rattled at even the biggest of disturbances
  9. Humble and gentle
  10. Well dressed with impeccable manners
  11. Courteous and polite to all (irrespective of the people’s status and class)
  12. Chivalrous to women (yes, he [if he is a male] should know how to treat a lady)
  13. Fit and strong (can you imagine a leader with a paunch? Well, why not, if he’s fit and strong.)
  14. An excellent orator
  15. Able to communicate in English
  16. One who constantly upgrades his or her knowledge

In case, you have been busy marking the points, now’s the time to make a list of the qualities that you need to work upon and them just get started.

People, developing qualities and learning new things is not rocket science, it just requires that little desire to be successful and a decision to let nothing, absolutely nothing come between your goal and you.

Good luck to you…


Newsletter Subscribe