While it is true that a good leader will have a clear vision for the future, it is important to recognize that our past will inform our present as we move into the future. A leader does not just arrive onto the scene. A leader and each person with whom the leader works will function and respond based on their previous experiences. In his book The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise, Manfred F R. Kets de Vries stresses the need to understand one’s emotional state and background in order to lead effectively.
We have all worked with leaders who seem emotional and irrational. I have worked with several leaders and followers who drove me crazy because of the way they made decisions and the way they interacted with people. Many of these people masked their insecurities by becoming aggressive and/or defensive. Some exude an over-competence while inwardly quaking in fear. Some become micro-managers. Some act like dictators. Whatever the case, I have found that knowing a person’s background goes a long way toward understanding a person’s personal “quirks”. Kets de Vries says, “If we can gather enough background and contextual information, even the most incomprehensible behavior makes sense.” I remember working with a man who continually drove his staff members away because he was insecure and had to control everything. His staff was unable to fully use their gifts and develop their fields of ministry because they were constantly strapped with seemingly meaningless tasks. The more I got to know this leader, the more I began to understand his behavior. He grew up in London during the air raids of the Second World War and experienced constant fear and uncertainty. He later moved to South Africa and was sent off to boarding schools where he suffered at the hands of older boys with little adult supervision. In order to survive in a dangerous world in which he had little control, he learned to control what he could. This coping mechanism that helped him through childhood became an obstacle to his leadership. The more I knew of his past, the more I could appreciate him and see what an incredibly talented person he was.
Kets de Vries says we must get to know our own emotions, learn how to manage those emotions, and learn to recognize and deal with the emotions of others. This path leads us to greater emotional intelligence and helps prepare us to lead effectively. Kets de Vries goes on to offer the four H’s of effective leadership; Hope, Humanity, Humility, and Humor. Creating a sense of hope inspires others to follow. Humanity and humility help keep us real and authentic. They also help us appreciate others in a way that a prideful person never can. Humor gives us the ability to laugh at ourselves and create a healthy work environment. Any leader that embraces these four H’s, understands himself/herself, and can recognize and appreciate the emotional essence of others will be well on their way to providing healthy, effective leadership.
 Manfred F R. Kets de Vries, The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise, 2nd ed. (Harlow, England: Prentice Hall/Financial Times, 2006), 10.
 Ibid., 25.
 Ibid., 263.