Politics is an odd game. Like everything else, there is a spectrum of ability, from the adept at one end to the inept at another. But now and again a political force comes out of the woodwork – it almost feels like that – and punches above their weight.
What is it that turns a political leader from someone in the rank and file into an extraordinary individual, who truly makes a change?
It is a snapshot in time
One point might be that their moment, as it were, is a result of a perfect storm of national or international events, as well as their own personality. Winston Churchill is remembered as a great war leader. He was the recipient of a huge state funeral, and few would dispute his leadership in the dark days of the Second World War. But to that point, he had been regarded as something of a failure and few were comfortable with his ability to switch political sides.
Although there is much more to Nelson Mandela than the following point, his rise to incredible heights was also a time of huge change in South Africa. His personality and his nature were exactly what was needed at the time and he was the man for the job, no doubt. But in other circumstances, had the zeitgeist been different, could he have achieved what he managed to do.
A charisma is clearly an asset. Adept politicians have it. Being in a room with either Bill or Hillary Clinton people talk of being aware of something else. Some sort of magnetism, a something else which marks the remarkable person from the rest of us.
When we think back to the newsreels of 1930s Germany there is no way in which we can doubt the otherness of Adolf Hitler. Yes, there was a propaganda machine behind him. But he was the little man who stood at a podium and raised a huge rabble to the screaming fervor that is so scary about the video.
The establishment of a long-lasting idea
Some concepts have changed the way in which we internationally view some actions forever. Mahatma Gandhi was a lawyer and a well-educated man. He was central to the ways in which India became independent from the British Empire. His leadership was from the back, he was not one of the leaders and he did not take part in the government after the British withdrew.
But his concept of non-violent civil disobedience has lasted to this day. Silent protests and sit-downs are all a part of his legacy. His political influence almost came about because he shunned political influence. The paradox is marked, but there is still no doubt he had a political aim and was prepared to do much to achieve it.
Taking greatness or having it thrust upon you
Political leaders are looking for something. For some, having the top job is the goal. But I believe the ones who see a bigger goal are the ones who become outstanding.