If you were to build a house, you would begin with a blueprint. This blueprint would prove useful because it
contains more than directions on how to build a house. It also describes the finished house. So, what does this have to do with business leadership?
Last month I asked an audience of leaders to tell me the characteristics of an ideal business leader.
Their answers were (in the order collected):
A good listener, enthusiasm, passion, shows appreciation, a visionary, a role model, trusting, having integrity,
organized, knowledgeable, credible, persuasive, charismatic, team building, clarity of purpose, problem solver,
attitude of service, leads by example, patience, willing to act without complete knowledge, understands
followers, consistent, empowering of others, and adaptable.
This did not surprise me as it is typical of the list I receive from other audiences when I ask this question. From this comes some useful insights.
1. Notice what the list contains. All of these characteristics relate to the human side of leadership. That’s
interesting because I often hear people minimize this side of leadership as being “soft” or “touchy feely”.
Actually, applying these characteristics requires more strength than not.
2. Notice what the list excludes. Absent from this list (and all lists from my other collections) are
characteristics such as stern, mean, serious, short-tempered, vindictive, tough, angry, harsh, punitive,
controlling or ruthless. That is interesting because many popular representations of leadership emphasize at
least some of these “hard” characteristics. In fact, these characteristics are actually the refuge of those who
lack the strength (or skills) to apply the human side of leadership.
3. How about you? How would you rate yourself as a business leader compared to the list of positive
characteristics? If you were to survey the people who report to you, how would they describe your leadership?
Would they list aspects from the “soft” list or the “hard” list? Could you become more effective by improving
on any of the “soft” characteristics? And how about other business leaders in your organization? Do you and
they truly maximize human potential?