What Does It Take to Be a Leader: Determining the Main Factors

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Leadership is the principle of being able to guide and motivate others in order to fulfill a common goal/interest. Leaders need to believe what they are preaching otherwise they will seem to be deceiving those who follow. It is always said that leaders are not born, but made and I while I do in fact agree with this sentiment, it needs to be noted that not everyone has what it takes to be a leader either by processing traits that do not allow it, or simply do not believe themselves to take up that mantle.

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Two major traits I believe leaders should strive for are honesty, and integrity. I believe a leader needs to be honest to those they represent because if they are not, they are not serving those they represent with any respect. Integrity is another trait I believe is required in a leader, so they are upholding the best interests for what they represent. Honesty and Integrity goes hand in hand with each other and are the key traits I’d say a leader requires. Some other traits a leader should process would be commitment to whom/what they are leading, being able to make good decisions for what they represent, as well as being able to inspire others to assist in their cause.

One leader I’m fond of is Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA who was an English physicist, cosmologist, and an author. Hawking was born on the 8th of January in 1942 in Oxford, England to his parents Frank and Isobel Hawking. His father was a medical researcher while his mother was a secretary for a research institute. Hawking also had two younger sisters, and an adopted brother. Hawking got his bachelor’s degree in physics at the University of Oxford, and later went on to get a PhD in applied mathematics and theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge. A few of his most important discoveries include the Penrose-Hawking singularity theory, Hawking Theory which proposes that black holes emit radiation, as well as his theory on the link between quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity. At only 21 years old, Hawking was diagnosed with a slowly progressing form of ALS that led to a gradual form of parlays. He was later confined to a wheelchair, and eventually lost his ability to speak, which led to him needing to communicate through a speech generating device. Stephen Hawking unfortunately passed away on the 14th of March of 2018 at the age of 76. He will go on to be forever known as one of the greatest leading minds of science of all time.

Stephen Hawking was a successful leader for a few key reasons. The first being his goal of completely understanding the universe and why it exists and how it began. This is important as it shows that he is dedicated to his work, and that he has a set goal that while ambitious leads to further knowledge being uncovered. Another way I view Hawking as a successful leader is his ability to adapt to change, even in the face of terrible odds. A major example of this is how he was able to adapt his life in a way that allowed him to communicate and function after his ALS led to him being gradually paralyzed. A quote that stood out to me on his views on being ‘disabled’.

“If you are disabled, it is probably not your fault, but it is no good blaming the world or expecting it to take pity on you. One has to have a positive attitude and must make the best of the situation that one finds oneself in; if one is physically disabled, one cannot afford to be psychologically disabled as well.” (Stephen Hawking)

One politician I admire is Joseph Kennedy III who is the current representative in the U.S. House of Representatives for Massachusetts’s fourth district. Kennedy was born on October 4, 1980 in Brighton, Massachusetts into one of the most well-known political dynasties. His father was Joseph Kennedy II had also previously served in the House of Representatives representing Massachusetts’s eighth district. Kennedy’s mother was Sheila Brewster Rauch. Also notable is his relation to his grandfather Robert F. Kennedy who served as Attorney General, and as one of the two senators for the state of New York. He is also the great-nephew of the 35th President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy started his career in law as a prosecutor later resigning to run for his current seat in the House of Representatives. Kennedy is also currently running for Senator as one of Massachusetts’s two senate seats against fellow Democratic Senator Ed Markey.

Personally, I view Rep. Joseph Kennedy III as a successful leader due to his beliefs on major issues (health care, fair pay), and how he’s worked to institute reform to hopefully create a better nation. I also believe in his ideals that everyone should be treated equally regardless of religion, gender, and so on. Most recently one of his major accomplishments was his response to President Trump’s state of the union in 2018. I found Kennedy’s speech unifying and hopeful that we’d one day rise out of the hated. Even in such uncertain times, the message was clear and concise, contrasting the President’s own speech.

One of my past experiences as a leader was when I worked in the print shop for my high school’s graphic communications program. The program consisted of both personal and client work for the city, and other clients (typically parents or local organizations.) My role generally consisted of designing and printing, however I also had several other tasks such as proofing.

The experience I will refer to is when the school district ordered a double-sided pamphlet that would be sent to each of the district’s families enrolled which was over 10,000 copies. Leadership came into play once print production started, and we required small teams to do several tasks. I was assigned as the ‘project manager’ and was the one who was printing out all the pamphlets, and then as they came out and dried giving them to a team of two who went onto too fold them with the folding machine. As they were folding them, I was also tasked with doing quality checks to ensure they were not only printed properly but also properly folded (not crooked or ripped). Coinciding with the printing of the pamphlets was the printing of 2 types of envelopes one being the primary standard envelope, and one to go inside which was a return envelope. Following all pamphlets and at least a considerable number of envelopes the next step was stuffing the envelopes which was generally done in a collective group of around 4-5 people depending on the class period. Lastly, we would print stickers that we later would put on the envelopes with the family’s name, and finally get them all together in a few envelope crates and bring them to the front office for shipping to the families. While this experience was rather at some points annoying and tedious, the outcome of working with a team to get a product out in a timely manner was in my eyes a pretty positive overall experience. I will note that this was only one of many of these types of jobs and thus I was also pretty used to it.

In the future I hope to be able to help lead a team in my field in a way that is successful and productive. I believe that with experience I have had in high school working with clients and fellow students has positivity helped me to work with others in the future.

In closing, I believe that in order to be an effective leader you need to be able to work with others and need to be able to motivate them to achieve a common goal or interest. The leaders I have mentioned today Stephen Hawking, and Joe Kennedy III are leaders I believe uphold these beliefs. Both also demonstrate honesty and integrity in ways that make people believe in them. Finally, I want to reiterate the common statement “Leaders are Made, Not Born.” As I believe no one person is destined to lead, but instead those who are generally ‘good’ leaders do not want it and are ultimately thrust into it.

Works Cited

  1. Stephen Hawking. (n.d.). Stephen Hawking. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Sep. 2019].
  2. Stephen Hawking. (n.d.). About Stephen. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Sep. 2019].
  3. (n.d.). Stephen Hawking. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Sep. 2019].
  4. (n.d.). About Joe | U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Sep. 2019].
  5. (n.d.). Kennedy for Massachusetts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Sep. 2019].
  6. (n.d.). Joe Kennedy III. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Sep. 2019].   

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