A Distant Sound of Thunder : NO QUARTER: "...Leadership is comprised of many qualities: responsibility, courage, wisdom, experience, judgment, instinct, passion, vision, perseverance, loyalty… among others. But it is founded upon one quality only: sacrifice. All leaders understand this innately but most skew the interpretation to stand it on its ear, they think it must mean your sacrifice. These are always the bad leaders, the narcissists, the warmongers, the tinpot dictators, the power-mad politicians who will sacrifice anyone and everyone to gain their grail. They never seem to achieve it… and because of this fundamental misunderstanding, they never will.
True leadership, is based on self-sacrifice, on the willing gift or, as the Greeks put it, “the sacrifice that goes, consenting”. In the elder days this was literal truth, in times of emergency, of war, of drought or famine, plague or pestilence; the king was called by the god to sacrifice himself for the people.
Oedipus, the King of Thebes sent to the Oracle at Delphi to ask Apollo what to do in a time of great drought and famine. He expected to be called to account for the city’s sins and, in a way, he was. The Oracle told him to “seek out the unclean thing”; he did, and found himself.
We do not demand that our leaders hurl themselves from high places any more nor immolate themselves in the sacred fire nor battle dragons in their lairs. The nightmares are different now: the mushroom cloud, the ravening packs of corporate wolves, the manic hordes of religious madmen (perhaps not so different after all) but the bedrock principle of self-sacrifice remains the defining characteristic of leadership..."
I would like to add that you cannot lead from the rear; the front is often a dangerous place. Leaders must have real, not imagined, courage.