If I were to distill my learnings from having hired and worked with thousands of leaders, I would identify five traits that separated the best from the rest. The interesting thing is that none of these traits requires genius or exceptional capabilities and can easily be learned and practiced. Unfortunately, very few people do. If you want to be one of the exceptions, read on:
Exceptional communication skills: Every successful leader excels in the art of conveying complex and difficult messages clearly and with maximum effectiveness. Great speakers and writers can convince and cajole their audience and eventually achieve the outcome that is best for them and for their organization. Practice this with diligence and you will get better every day with this essential skill and thus catapult your career forward.
Out of the box thinking: Questioning conventional wisdom and superimposing prior experiences onto current situations is often called “wisdom” and rightfully so. Self aware leaders learn this as they progress through their careers and hone this capability over time.
Taking ownership: Ask a CEO what frustrates them the most, and many will say it is their coworkers who refuse to take on responsibility and accountability for their areas. I can tell you that what bothers me a lot are “leaders” in my organization who want me to sign off on every decision. Unfortunately for them, they are also the last on my list for career progression. On that topic, I think I reflect the sentiment of many other CEOs.
Lifelong learning: I have to admit that there was a point in my career when I thought I knew everything there was to know about running and growing a business. How wrong I was! Until I corrected my folly, my company and all efforts to achieve my goals languished. Great leaders are the ones who recognize that there is always another nugget of knowledge around the corner. Learning is a lifelong process and those who forsake that might as well hang up their boots.
Integrity: Honesty, sincerity, and transparency are not just traits that make you a better person, but actually also very important for the success of your business. You don’t build lifelong partnerships with investors, customers, employees, and even family members if you cannot be trusted. If business was a book, the title of the first chapter would be “Integrity”.
Those were my five. Do you think there are other traits that should be added to this list?