Despite rapid advancements in science, there are certain things that cannot be quantified; aspects of personality being one of those rare things. Leadership is one such quality amongst many others that are difficult to quantify or measure.
How do you define leadership? It's an abstract quality, as the definition of good leadership is quite subjective, varying massively based on different backgrounds, cultures, and societies.
The common behaviors associated with leadership are: being aggressive, being at the center of attention, and being extremely vocal. Pop culture, largely in part to Hollywood and media coverage, have instilled a perception that a good leader is loud, authoritative, and does not back down from challenges.
These personality traits have been seen in powerful leaders throughout history. Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Genghis Khan, amongst other prominent historical figureheads, possessed these qualities. But are these the only factors influencing leadership?
After the departure of club legend and captain Andres Iniesta, the next in line for succession of the captaincy of FC Barcelona was the man himself, Lionel Messi. Touted as the GOAT by many, he has been embroiled in a fierce rivalry against Real Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, perpetrated by fans and media alike.
In recent years, the rivalry has escalated to new heights. With Real Madrid going through an unprecedented winning streak in the Champions League and completing a three-peat in the competition, Barcelona has fallen under the shadow of the Spanish giants. On the national side, a determined Portugal side was crowned Euro 2016 champions, while a Messi-led Argentine national team reached three consecutive finals in three years (World cup 2014, Copa America 2015 and 2016) but failed to win any of them, calling Messi's leadership into question.
"He's not a leader. He's no Ronaldo in that regard. He's not there anymore. He's not running, he's walking. He's not concerned about the ball. Come on." ~ Emmanuel Petit
It is here that we must consider the initial question, what makes a good leader? Can leadership be objectively determined using certain characteristics or personality traits?
There are different types of leaders. Some take charge from the front, others prefer to dictate situations from the background instead of being the center of attention. While the likes of Sergio Ramos or Cristiano Ronaldo may be the former type, Lionel Messi fits in the latter category. He does not publicly react to situations. He is not outspoken. He is not a talker.
He is a doer. True leadership does not come from being vocal, it comes from action. It comes from inspiration, and from the ability to motivate and give hope to teammates, that everything will be all right after the passage of the storm. Leading by example. Too often in history, leading figureheads have attempted to be authoritative and control their populace, to unsuccessful ends. Too often have people in charge merely given orders to subordinates instead of participating.
Greatness has been thrust upon him by his teammates, his club, his countrymen, his brothers-in-arms. He's ready to live up to the greatness of past generations that established Barcelona as a behemoth of world football.
Messi possesses a certain gravitas rarely seen in players. Despite being at the absolute top of the game, and widely acknowledged as one of the greatest players of all time - if not the greatest - he remains ever humble, silently doing his job, and delivering his best for the team. His greatness stems not from his behavior on the pitch, but from his actions on the pitch. He inspires teammates and fans alike with every twist and turn. He gives them opportunities with every dribble and every pass. He gives them hope with every goal.
With his first words as the captain, Messi pledged to bring glory to this great and historic club. He is the silent guardian of Catalonia. He is the white knight of Barcelona, and he's out for redemption, as he looks to re-establish his legacy. He's the captain.
Barcelona is an army led by a lion. By Lionel Messi.
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