Important Leadership Traits

One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profi ts. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So they’re saying that profi ts went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.” Great leadership is indeed a diffi cult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even great leaders can have a hard time explaining the specifi cs of what they do that makes their leadership so effective. Great leadership is dynamic; it melds unique skills into an integrated whole. The adaptive leadership skills represent the major discovery from our research. That’s not to suggest we “discovered” these skills. Rather, we found that adaptive leadership skills are what set great leaders apart―these skills represent the otherwise intangible qualities that great leaders have in common. Adaptive leadership is a unique combination of skills, perspective, and guided effort. Emotional intelligence is a set of skills that capture our awareness of our own emotions and the emotions of others and how we use this awareness to manage ourselves effectively and form quality relationships. It’s a myth that hard work is enough to achieve results. Far too often, obstacles are thrown in a leader’s path that require a special set of skills to reach the fi nish line. Talent hits a target that no one else can hit, but genius hits a target no one else can see. Strategy is knowing how to look ahead, spot the trends, and anticipate the course of action you will follow to maximize your success. The moment leaders think they have nothing more to learn and have no obligation to help develop those they lead is the moment they ensure they’ll never know their true potential. Learning at the neural level moves along a continuum from having to concentrate hard on making a change to repeated polishing of the rough edges and fi nally to automatic habits that you hardly have to think about. The focus of your efforts at the outset ought to be on repeated practice for a period in a desired leadership skill—the same type of repeated practice an athlete endures until muscle memory takes over. People tend to think of strategic leaders as ‘trust your gut’ types who make mysterious moves when the mood strikes them, but the creativity and insight that drive sound strategic thinking follow a careful and deliberate process. Effective strategies are the product of four unique leadership skills: vision, acumen, planning, and the courage to lead. When used in concert, these skills can change an industry landscape as easily as they can change the face of a company. A solid vision creates an idealized future state for your organization that everyone is motivated to pursue wholeheartedly. interest in the pursuit of a superordinate goal. Vision and mission statements are common in organizations these days. Unfortunately, many of them do little more than hang on the wall in the lobby for visitors to read while they are waiting for their meeting. Too many leaders miss that the purpose of a vision is to create a direction for the organization that people can believe in. A vision is not about words on a wall. It is about creating a central pursuit for the organization that gives employees a sense of purpose. People operate at full capacity when they are energetically hunting an important objective. As a leader, you demonstrate acumen in knowing your business better than anyone else. Not on the ground fl oor, mind you. You need to be able to see your business from above. Your job as a leader is to take a 30,000-foot view of your organization and your industry, so that you can spot opportunities that will create real competitive advantage.