There are always people who, in a group, come out with better qualities as a leader than others. The strongest people however, become the greater influences, which the others decide to follow. However, sometimes the strongest person is not the best choice. Authors often show how humans select this stronger person, in order to give an understanding of the different powers that some people can posses over others. In William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies Ralph though not the stronger person, demonstrates a better understanding of people which gives Ralph better leadership qualities than Jack.
Ralph displays useful human qualities as a leader by working towards the betterment of the boys’ society. He knows that in order to stay civilized the boys need stability and order. He creates rules and a simple form of government to achieve this order. Ralph understands that the boys, particularly Piggy, have to be given respect and must be treated as equals. This makes Ralph a better leader, as he is able to acknowledge that he was not superior to any of the other boys. Ralph’s wisdom and ability to look to the future also make him a superior leader. Ralph has the sense to keep his focus on getting off the island. He insists on keeping the fire burning as a distress signal. Ralph’s leadership provides peace and order to the island while Jack’s leadership creates chaos.
Under Jack’s rule, the boys become uncivilized savages. They have no discipline. Ralph, however, keeps the boys under order through the meetings, which he himself calls. At these meetings a sense of order is instilled because the boys have to wait until they hold the conch to speak. When Ralph says, “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it when he’s speaking.” (Golding 36) by making such rules as these, and by giving the boys the stability of an authority figure, mainly himself, he enforces his role of leader. He wins the boys respect and confidence in his leadership abilities. Ralph uses his authority to try to improve the boys’ society. By building shelters he demonstrates his knowledge of the boys’ needs. When he says to Jack, “They talk and scream. The littluns. Even some of the others.” (Golding 56) he is referring to why the boys need shelters; they are afraid. Jack fails to realize the boys need security, stability and order in their society. Ralph understands that by building the shelters, the boys will feel more secure. This illustrates his superior knowledge of people, which makes him a better leader than Jack.
Ralph’s treatment of the boys demonstrates his understanding of how people should be treated. While Jack considers the boys inferior to himself, Ralph treats the boys as equals. Ralph’s superior leadership qualities are reflected in his constant defence of Piggy. Piggy is the weakest of the group and is therefore treated unfairly much of the time. When Jack hits Piggy and breaks his glasses, Ralph calls it “A dirty trick.” (Golding 78) Ralph’s compassion and ability to empathize with others thus illustrating his understanding of people; while at the same time demonstrates Jack’s disregard for other humans. Ralph’s “government” is a form of democracy which gives each boy equal rights and an ability to express themselves. Jack treats the boys, especially Piggy, as inferiors. When Jack gets meat from hunting, he gives everyone some except for Piggy. When Piggy asks for some, Jack says, “You didn’t hunt.” (Golding 80) Ralph and many of the littluns did not hunt, yet only this treatment is directed at Piggy. Jack’s contempt for Piggy shows his inability to understand people, while a good leader would take care of all of his followers. Ralph possesses this understanding and is therefore a better leader.
Ralph’s common sense and ability to recognize what is best for the group as a whole further demonstrates his superior leadership skills. His main focus throughout the book is getting rescued and he puts much emphasis on this. He instructs the boys to make a fire and to keep it burning as a distress signal. When the boys do not share his enthusiasm for getting rescued, he becomes exasperated. “The fire is the most important thing on the island. How can we ever be rescued except by luck, if we don’t keep the fire going?” (Golding 88) Ralph’s determination to get rescued is not for purely selfish reasons, but rather, it is in the best interest of the group. When the boys join Jack’s tribe; Jack only satisfies their short term wants and needs, such as the desire for meat. A good leader however, should look to the future and plan accordingly such as Ralph does. Although these choices may not always be popular, the better leader will carry out long term plans. When Piggy says “Which is better – to be a pack of painted niggers like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is?” (Golding 199) he demonstrates how the boys; by not following Ralph, have been lead astray by Jack. Ralph’s main priority, is getting off the island, a much wiser choice for the boys to follow. Unfortunately, the boys decide to follow Jack, whose main priority is to hunt and play games rather than try to be saved. Had they listened to the better leader, the novel may not have ended as tragically.
Ralph’s clear understanding of people and their needs make him a far superior leader when compared with Jack. Ralph’s understanding of the boys need for stability and order through government and rules prompts him to improve the society in which they are living. Jack’s society was barbaric and savage and met none of these needs. Jack treats the boys as slaves and inferiors. Ralph’s patience and caring with the boys shows his ability to take charge and rule in an effective, yet democratic fashion. Ralph’s priority to get off the island demonstrates his wisdom and ability to make decisions. Although a good leader may not be as charismatic as a poor one, it is important to choose the leader who will meet the needs of the people. The popularity of an inferior leader soon disappears, yet the wisdom and guidance of a good leader will always remain.