Ralph displays both positive and negative leadership qualities throughout the novel. His leadership abilities are put to the test when he becomes the elected chief of the boys on the island. Ralph begins by making some good decisions, such as setting ground rules to follow during assembly meetings. Ralph says,
"We can't have everybody talking at once. We'll have to have 'Hands up' like at school." (Golding 33)
Ralph also encourages the boys at the beginning of the novel by saying,
"And sooner or later a ship will put in here. It might even be Daddy's ship. So you see, sooner or later, we shall be rescued." (Golding 37)
Ralph also makes the important decision to maintain a signal fire on top of the mountain to aid in their rescue. Ralph says,
"There's another thing. We can help them to find us. If a ship comes near the island they may not notice us. So we must make smoke on top of the mountain. We must make a fire." (Golding 38)
In Chapter 4, Ralph confronts Jack after the signal fire goes out and they miss an opportunity to be rescued. He says,
"You and your blood, Jack Merridew! You and your hunting! We might have gone home---" (Golding 70)
By challenging and confronting Jack about prioritizing hunting ahead of rescue, Ralph displays his role as the boys' chief.
As the novel progresses, Ralph makes some serious misjudgments and loses support from the majority of the boys. In Chapter 2, Ralph begins to forget the rules he put in place about individuals speaking during the assemblies. Piggy is holding the conch attempting to speak and looks at Ralph to support him. When Piggy states that he's got the conch, Ralph says, "What's that?" (Golding 45) In Chapter 5, Jack argues during an assembly and convinces his followers to go hunting. Ralph tells Piggy,
"I ought to give up being chief. Hear 'em." (Golding 93)
Ralph's reaction to adversity is to give up, which is not a positive quality for a leader to have. In Chapter 10, when Ralph is attempting to encourage Samneric to build another fire he says,
"There was something good about fire. Something overwhelmingly good." (Golding 163)
Ralph begins to lose focus on what is important and is unable to motivate the few members of his tribe toward the end of the novel.