It would appear so. Edwin Poots was on TV the other day (no, Virginia, I would not put dear Edwin down as an example of leadership). He was denouncing Sinn Féin for having sparked the flags row and for having supported the Castlederg republican parade, and said all this showed a lack of leadership by Martin McGuinness.
You could say, as did Poots, that Martin McGuinness showed lack of leadership by expressing support for the Castlederg parade, but only if you think that the Castlederg parade was a bad thing. Most republicans, I would imagine, would have viewed the parade as a reasonable commemoration of their dead and would have seen McGuinness's support as showing political courage - a vital ingredient in leadership. Likewise Gerry Kelly, who knew what opprobrium would be heaped on him for attending and speaking at the event.
The one quality you do not want to see in an effective leader is cowardice. Peter Robinson showed some cowardice with his famous Letter from America. Had he delivered the message while here, there would have been less sense of him as a man pressured into saying what he did. And personally speaking, I can’t rid my mind of his ‘The best Dad in the world’ speech when Irisgate was raging. In fact I don’t know how he’s lasted so long; maybe because he’s had at his side the redoubtable Deputy First Minister, who has repeatedly propped him up when the heat was on.
And the others? David Ford of the Alliance Party sounds good on TV but looks bad. Rightly or wrongly, a bald head and prominent teeth work against a leader today, however talented he may be. Mike Nesbitt, UUP leader? Some see him as empty and desperate. I would be more optimistic. He’s at his weakest when he’s looking over his shoulder to see what others - other party members, the electorate - are expecting him to do; on the other hand I suspect he’s as near to a unionist leader that nationalists and republicans can like as we’re going to get. If he could have the courage to do something different and bold and beneficial, he could make a historic contribution. But I’m not holding my breath.
Which leaves - oh right, the SDLP. Almost forgot. Alasdair McDonnell has the hair and bulk - the gravitas - that’s useful to a party leader on TV. On the other hand he’s not so hot at handling interviews - that jeez-I'm-blinded acceptance speech did him terrible damage. These days he looks increasingly like someone who’s filling in rather than someone who’s going places.
In sum, I think leaders need to show courage in adversity, courage in the initiatives they mount, and a warmth and empathy with the electorate. I’ll leave it to you to decide which party leader in the North best fits that description. If any.