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Here are my impressions of what makes a leader great.
Their effectiveness has little to do with personality factors or the school they attended. Great leaders can be extroverts or introverts. Unlike many presidential candidates they are not all graduates of Ivy League schools but they are passionate lifelong learners, always practicing new skills, and humbly recognizing that they could be much better leaders.
What sets them apart from other leaders is that they have:
1. Very definite ideas and strong opinions of how to take their organization into the future. Such a strategic mindset goes well beyond quarterly profit statements. They understand the life cycle of their business, see trends within their industry as well as the world economy, and in collaboration with their key leaders position their organization to be successful in the future.
2. The capacity to inspire everyone in their organization to accept the vision as well as perform at very high levels. They do this by reaching for sources of inspiration within their people like appealing to the desire to make a contribution or serve the greater good.
3. The skill to consistently and clearly communicate their vision both verbally as well as in writing. Above all, they have a powerful story that touches and convinces their people at an emotional level.
4. A will to succeed (very competitive) combined with a deep humility that realizes that they cannot achieve their goals alone. They also are big enough to admit that they have failed their way to success. This principle is captured in Jim Collins book on Level 5 Leadership.
5. The discipline to stay focused on what is important. They are not derailed by emotional turbulence both within themselves as well as within their organization. They have a grip on their emotions and do not import strong emotions from one context (a recent battle with a board member) into a meeting with their executive team. They have the discipline to “be here now” (mindfulness).
6. The ability to draw on the expertise of other team members. They don’t feel compelled to be “know-it-alls”. For instance a senior leader may come from a technology background and not have much domain depth in the area of sales and marketing. He/she knows enough to ask powerful questions but relies on others to advise him/her on the important issues that have relevance to key business goals.
What top qualities do you find in effective senior leaders?
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