The need for good leadership
Posted on May 4th, 2018

By Lakshman I.Keerthisinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

Great leaders are not merely effective, they are ethical. Moral principles guide their purposes and practices.People follow them because they believe in them.Great leaders engender trust in their integrity, their competence and their intentions.”-Michael Josephson (American Professor of Law)

In recent times there has been much discussion in social circles about the necessity of good leaders for our motherland Sri Lanka. It is obvious that without good leaders there can never be good governance in a country.This article attempts to examine the traits of good leadership which would benefit our nation.

The great Greek philosopher Aristotle stated that for a good leader it is more important to do the right thing than it is to please all parties. No person can ever please everybody. Aristotle believed that to become an effective leader, such person must first be a follower, to intimately understand the needs and wants of the people. A person who cannot be a follower cannot be a good leader. Even after one becomes a leader, such person still needs to follow – the concerns, the plight, and the progress of the people such leaders serve. Every good leader is a good follower. Aristotle believed that a person is what he repeatedly does. Thus excellence becomes a habit.


A good leader stands for excellence promoting excellence in what such leader does and those that such leader serves every moment every day. Many people avoid conflict like the plague. They believe it is better to run the other way than to risk a confrontation. But a true leader does not run away but faces it head on, and right away, so that the problem does not grow (as it inevitably will if untreated).This philosopher also said liars even when they speak the truth are not believed. A person’s reputation is that person’s number one asset. The fastest way to erode a reputation is to try and deceive people even if a person is doing it for all the ‘right’ reasons.

Good leaders never lie or deceive the people. Leaders who help people get ahead in this world are those who leave the greatest legacy. Aristotle also said tolerance and apathy are the last traits of a dying society. If a leader is one who is tolerant of laziness, infighting, insubordination, and is indifferent to the concerns and achievements of the people – death to such person’s position, team, department or entire country, could come knocking. If a leader doesn’t have the courage to oppose bad behaviour and if such leader ignores the good deeds of his/her people, such person is not leading. Good leaders show that they don’t give up easily and are courageous. They are patient with their plans and patient with the people.

Patience is sometimes mistaken for stubbornness. The difference is that when one is patient, such person is leading. When one is stubborn, such person is controlling. Patience shows strength and conviction. Long before today’s trend of leading a balanced life, Aristotle believed in what he called the golden mean” to achieve life-long happiness. This is the point between excess and deficiency. In other words, it is the middle ground or the middle path, which the Buddha himself advocated.

Kautilya the ancient Indian philosopher speaking of a leader or king expressed the following thoughts: ‘a king with a depleted treasury eats into the very vitality of the citizens and the country’.  At the same time ‘a king, who impoverishes his own people or angers them by unjust exactions will also lose their loyalty’. Kautilya further stated ‘impoverishment, greed and dissatisfaction are engendered among the subjects, when the king:(i)  ignores the good people and favours the wicked;(ii) causes harm by new unrighteous practices;(iii) neglects the observation of proper and righteous practices; (iv) suppresses dharma and propagates adharma;(v) does what ought not to be done and fails to do what ought to be done;(vi)  fails to give what ought to be given and exacts what he cannot rightly take;(vii) does not punish those who ought to be punished but punishes those who do not deserve to be punished; (viii)  arrests those who should not be arrested but fails to arrest those who should be seized;(ix) indulges in wasteful expenditures and destroys profitable undertakings; (x)fails to protect the people from thieves and robs them himself. A good leader should avoid the above traits.

In conclusion rather than criticizing our present leaders for their alleged weaknesses it is much more productive to guide them in the proper path. For that purpose the advice given by ancient philosophers become very relevant. Personal attacks on leaders especially judges who are presently on the bench are very counterproductive and detrimental to the maintenance of the rule of law as such criticisms in public erode public confidence in the administration of justice. Our leaders should emulate great leaders of yore and serve the nation conscientiously.

(The writer is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM. MPhil. (Colombo)
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