Redefining Leadership for Peace by Shahram Ghanbari

To be a successful leader there are certain characteristics you need to possess in order to be efficient and effective. However, to be a great leader for peacemaking and peace politics, there are additional traits that will work in your favor.

When we think about leadership, we often think about people in positions of power. People who have control over things such as governmental discourse, or the community agendas. We think about people who desire and work for the satisfaction of power. However, in our society today, as it grows more violent toward political disagreements, we need to shift our goal and re-establish the need for peace. We need to eliminate the desire for power; we need to redefine leadership for peace.

A leader’s position to effect change should be determined and supported by his ability to advocate for peace, not for power. When we have leaders who create a priority for peace, there is a shift in our discourse in regards to what should be important and expected of our governments, communities, and establishments.

When we think about the most recognizable peace leaders, we think about individuals such as Malala, who is a resilient advocate for women’s education, Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist who promoted peaceful protest, and Nelson Mandela, who fought for equality and freedom of South Africa’s minorities.

These individuals advocated for social change and kept the peace as a precedence. These people shaped our history, and if we consider the great things they have accomplished, we notice re-occurring traits that are necessary when it comes to peaceful leadership.

When we look towards these charismatic leaders, they are examples of how peace is brought forth. They hold quality traits such as forgiveness, optimism, positive ethics, empathy, and adaptability. They also focus on important issues such as inclusion, acceptance, equality, and social justice.1

These traits are particularly important because they have the ability to inspire and influence others by way of admiration. These are qualities that are more likely to lead many into choosing peace and kindness over violence and anger. These qualities will keep the conversation current on the movement for peace within the business, politics, academia, and grassroots civil society.

Besides possessing important traits and characteristics, there are theories and practices, that can be beneficial to peace leaders as well. Some of these practices are strategic approaches to peace including communication, negotiation, creating peaceful and integrated structures; engaging in adaptive work and having relational and mediation skills.2

It is these types of qualities we should hold as a priority when selecting those we put into powerful and important positions. We need our present-day leaders to utilize the characteristics they already possess and re-direct them toward peacemaking and peace influencing. There has to be a driven and mobilized agenda that constantly advocates for non-violent, effective change, whether it be against gun-violence, indigenous reconciliation, or pipeline politics. We need to demand these qualities from our leaders in order for peace to prosper.


  1. Lieberfeld, Daniel.  “Lincoln, Mandela, and Qualities of Reconciliation-oriented Leadership”.  Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 15.1 (2009.): 27-47. Electronic.
  2. Reychler, Luc, and Stellamans, Anton. “Researching Peace Building Leadership.” Cahiers of the Center for Peace Research and Strategic Studies (CPRS). Diplomatic Thinking. 2005. Web.


Pin It on Pinterest