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The American Portrait

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The American Portrait
Every great country has a rich history littered with hugely influential individuals. Such
individuals, as those in the American Portrait, were interested in creating a society that prospered
in health, education, business, and governance among other fields. To achieve these goals, such
individuals had to poses exemplary qualities attributed to leadership. Julian Ralph (a journalist),
William Lloyd Garrison (an abolitionist), and Thomas O’Donnell (a businessman and
philanthropist) are some of the Americans named in the book who acted as important leaders in
different times and situations. Though the three specialized in different fields, they both stood out
as a result of their influence and leadership qualities.
A good leader can be defined as one who puts the interest of those they serve before their
own. It is the mark of great leaders to offer direction without being consumed by selfish personal
desires and ambition. A good leader, therefore, needs to be a servant of the public; not the other
way round. Some of the great leaders had to make huge sacrifices for the good of the larger
public they serve. Assertiveness is, perhaps, one of the qualities that differentiate great leaders
from the mediocre ones. Great leaders should also set a good example to the populace by being
accountable and take responsibility, show concern, and be incorruptible. These traits, alongside

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humility, are the hallmark of a good leader. The ‘leaders’ who lacked these traits fell out of
public favor because they lost focus of their obligation to those they served.
Leaders are trusted by the people to make decisions that will enhance growth and social
mobility of the entire society. To do this, a good leader needs to understand the needs of those
they are representing. This puts forth another aspect of good leadership; cooperation and
integration. A good leader should not only be able to consult but also work with every other
person with whom they have congruent goals.
While leadership has been attributed to democratically elected or appointed individuals,
its true meaning transpires beyond that. Most of the people in the American Portrait are
individuals who managed to lead from the simple roles they were entrusted within the society. It
is from these roles that they grew to influence a larger course. O’Donnell’s humble beginnings as
a young shovel coal miner saw him rise to a reputable oil magnate. The same applies to Ralph
who held no public office but influenced the society through his works and character. Great
leaders, therefore, did not wait to be thrust to the public limelight to make an impact. Instead,
they took the initiative and did what they assumed was right.
The American Portrait has a catalogue of individuals who can be hailed as the leaders that
shaped their respective fields. However, their influence was greater than the areas of
specialization as it extended to other spheres of the society. For instance, despite being a
journalist, Julian Ralph had significant influence on the social and political aspects of the
American society. This exemplified a great leader who refused to let their influence be limited to
their profession. The role played by these leaders has gone to inspire some of the famous leaders

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