Over the past 12 months, barely a day has gone by when there hasn't been a major story in the news about leadership.

Although not all of the stories specifically mention 'leadership', when you read the narrative you quickly see it is the central issue in play.

We hear people talking about leadership all the time, but when you ask people what good leadership looks like the answers are wide and varied.

At least they appear to be at first glance, but when you start sifting through people's responses some clear themes do emerge.


Likewise, although nearly every leadership "expert" tends to focus on a particular aspect of leadership, there are some key principles all contemporary authorities on leadership agree on.

For example, it is now almost universally accepted that leadership is a skill that can be learned.

Sure, some people have a natural gift for it, just as some people have a gift for playing a musical instrument, but in both leadership and music even if you have "the gift" you still need to practice, refine, develop and grow.

The idea leadership is a skill everyone can learn is quite a departure from the view that was widely held around the world up until about 100 years ago, when an approach called "Great Man theory" had currency.

As the title suggests, advocates of the theory believe only those with the greatest intelligence, wisdom, strength and political skill can be influential leaders.

The theory was strongly influenced by a time in our history when only the rich and powerful, and the people with titles made all the key decisions.

Some would argue not a lot has changed.

Although it is true rich and powerful people are able to wield a lot of influence, it is equally true you do not have to be a king or queen or a chief executive to be an effective leader.

There are plenty of examples over the past 100 years of people who had little money and no formal titles, but rose to become incredibly influential leaders who left a legacy that literally changed the world.

Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are three examples that spring to mind.

Developing the skills of leadership is one thing, having credibility as a leader is quite another.

The foundation for good leadership is personal integrity. You have to be authentic.

No matter how skilled you are, without authenticity you can never become a true leader because in this day and age people are looking for authenticity more than anything else.

Sure, there are lots of examples of people who lack personal integrity yet rise to positions of power, but they all come undone in the end.

Being an authentic leader is not easy, but it is so much better than the alternative.

Next week I plan to introduce you to some of the authentic leaders who have influenced me.

They might not be world famous, but they are wonderful people nonetheless.

Ka kite ano.

Bruce Horne is a retired police inspector who was the Rotorua police area commander from 2003 to 2016.