The Top 4 Qualities of Successful Leaders
You can’t lead when you know too much.
Education establishes barriers to thinking. Everything that comes your way is instantly judged by what you know. In some cases the less you know the more open you are.
People with knowledge say things like, “We can’t do that because…”
Another reason you can’t lead is too much experience.
You’ve been doing your job for years. You say things like, “We’ve always done it this way.” People with experience resist change.
Knowledge and experience hold leaders back when they result in closed minds.
New worlds antiquate old worlds. Turbulence, new regulations, cultural shifts, and technological advancements make old knowledge and past experience less relevant. During changing times leaders must possess three qualities, in this order:
Character is acting in harmony with who we are and in alignment with noble virtues.
Curiosity is the ability to withhold judgment long enough to consider alternatives. Experience and education often block curiosity.
In a changing world the ability to ask questions is more powerful than making statements.
Courage is willingness to act boldly and decisively while taking responsibility.
The fourth quality:
In a world full of “can’t do’s” successful leaders ask, “What can we do?” Bright futures are built with action; bleak with inaction.
This morning I’m remembering all the “good” reasons I gave for doing nothing. At the time it seemed wise and right. Looking back it was foolish and pathetic. It took me years to learn that action, no matter how small, is better than inaction.
You may be courageous but apart from action you might as well be a coward.
I’ve identified four qualities all modern leaders must possess. Can you expand or modify the list?
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Great challenge for leaders……I would also like add that a leader must create a vision, communicate this vision, and be courageous enough to support the changes needed to make the vison a reality.
Can have leadership without vision… great add.
I think that leaders without vision are, in actuality, followers. It’s too easy to be herded in one direction or another without the clarity that vision provides.
This is why I am using Macbeth for my 5 year old pre schoolers
Give back, become a mentor/coach. You might be surprised at what you learn!!
The coaching/mentoring leadership style is definitely getting traction these days. Thanks for adding…
Hey Dan, just 4? Qualities? Humility, compassion, belief, and just a bit of chutzpah!
I agree fully on education, most of the really good leaders I have met always leave me with the feeling they didn’t need to go to school – and some of them didn’t .
Thannks for jumping in. I think of you often and remeber our visit.
Love everything you added, especially chutzpah!! There is a tension between having enough ego to believe in yourself and too much so as to become arrogant.
Thanks for not commenting on where I am on that spectrum. Yeah the visit was awesome, more to follow the whole family’s moving to Northern Virginia in August 🙂
Wow, thats fantastic… at least from my point of view… hope you are happy about it. I know you’ve already moved in the not so distant past.
I live in Northern Virginia — an big early welcome to you and your family. I hope it works out for you.
Dan, you have chosen 3 “C” words so I am going to go with 3 “W” 🙂
Wise – Effective leaders know the pain cause they’ve felt it, so they engage hearts and minds on many levels, slicing through the minds of followers with simple effective communication.
Well-being – Effective leaders know that a balance between work and play is needed to make it through the diversity of the days, in order to stay the course long term and deal with the daily challenges that arise.
Walk – Effective leaders walk their talk in a consistent manner that people regard their opinion with esteem, but also feel they can walk part of the path with them and share their thoughts knowing they will be listened to and both parties respected.
Love it…or should I say “w”onderful!
You approach to wisdom is most interesting to me. It seems to be based in experience and relationships. Wise people learn how to better relate to others through their experiences… especially the painful ones… at least that’s what I’m reading in your comment.
Best to you,
Wonderful Dan 🙂
All leadership is about cultivating and maintaining relationships. The greater the capacity for empathy in order to understand how the minds of your followers tick is usually much broader if one has had a diverse knowledge and experience whether directly or indirectly in order to knowingly influence people proactively to follow through, embrace change, lead in their own remit and trust that the leader comes from a solid standpoint based on values with objectivity.
Thanks for your comment Imelda…while reading it I thought of something to add. Thanks for making me think…
Leadership is about cultivating, maintaining, and enhancing relationships…. of course you may have thought of cultivation as enhancing… 🙂
I think we mouth the words “we believe leadership is about relationships” but when the rubber hits the road relationships slip down the priority-list.
Best to you,
Your end comment is very true Dan ….. and I have felt the fallout of that on two business occasions in my life. The Leaders we look up and admire and learn from teach us different Leadership lessons when they back away to self protect and it is each man to himself, so to speak ……..
There but for the grace of God could go you or I, I always think in them situations. So you either become a victim or a warrior – I tend to become a warrior in the most diplomatic way of course ! …….
I guess an individual’s reaction in these situations says more about them that the perpetrators of the defunct Leadership ! I guess everything has a life expectancy within each situation so it is so important to hang on to your own Leadership traits in life – these are the constants that catch the wind and help you sail ……
I like the 3 Cs, of good leaders. Besides these we can add 3 more Cs: Commitment, change and consistency. Leaders commit and believe in change. Their actions are full of consistent effort. The other qualities that can be crucial for any leaders are: Honesty, Empathy, Humility,accountability and integrity. These are core of leaders.
Here I would like to add two qualities that are essentially needed and they make one either leaders or non-leaders. Compromise and sacrifice. I think leaders sacrifice their time, expectation and effort, but they do not compromise with values and beliefs. Non leaders on the other hand, compromise with everything but never belief in sacrifice. They think, position is more important than anything else, and that is why they do so. Here what makes one leader or non leader is belief. What you belief is the key. Whether to compromise or to sacrifice.
Man you added a bucket load of insight in this comment. Thanks for your three C’s.
Your approach to sacrifice is interesting. Perhaps some believe leadership is about making life easy for ourselves… You’re saying we willingly do the hard stuff.
Modelling sacrifice gives leaders authority to call others to rise up and make their own sacrifices. If we take the easy road we cannot expect those who follow to take the hard road.
“You can’t lead when you know too much.”
This is the topic of a LinkedIn discussion we are having over at the Pastor’s Network group. Here’s a link: http://lnkd.in/dVDXVw
It’s hard to lead effectively when you don’t know how to follow.
Great seeing you today… I hadn’t thought in terms of following but you make a lot of sense… Those who don’t know are free to follow.
In regard to your close: “You may be courageous but apart from action you might as well be a coward.”
I ‘mostly’ agree with this but it also reminds me of what I’ve heard said before – “let’s do something, even if it’s wrong”. I think when we’re tempted to fall for this one it’s good to remember Warren Buffet’s thought about “when you find yourself in a hole, first, stop digging”. It sometimes takes courage to wait and see how things unfold before jumping into the fray…
Love the tension between “do something” and “stop digging.” Reminds me that we aren’t dealing in universal truths.
I wonder if stop digging suggests that something else is being done… as in developing alternatives that call us to action.
Best to you,
Today’s post has brought good crispy views on the essential leadership qualities.
I am keen to add two more qualities to your 3 C’s viz. Charisma to lead and Confidence to get things done. The true leader has a basic personality and image to motivate people to follow a common dream, and the necessary ability to put them to work and ensuring the planned success.
The leader has to ‘Rise as A Champion & be A Winner’ all the time to keep his good image and earn the respect of all.
Dear Dr. Asher,
I’m delighted you brought charisma to the conversation. Some might call it leadership presence. This topic may feel uncomfortable but should be considered.
Obviously we shouldn’t fake it…never the less …
It’s important to look like a leader. Young leaders face bigger challenges in this area than more experienced. I’m not necessarily talking cloths but in attitude and demeanor. Perhaps confidence is an important component of charisma.
Great conversation. I’m reminded of Chris Argyris’ work in HBR on how hard it is to teach smart people to learn. It’s tough to learn when you already know it all! The plethora of research that came out of that one discovery has been amazing. But never has it been stated so succinctly or in such an interesting, response provoking manner.
Thanks for dropping in. I’m with you. The conversation on LF rocks!
Thanks from sharing an added reference and for your kind words.
I appreciate you,
I like the first 3 as a stand alone and the 4th (do something) as an add on because it essentially is question asking (what should be done?) and then using courage to act. Though I understand there are many givens in the quality of a leader like vision, I think character, curiosity and courage are a useful simple formula for innovative leadership. Love it and am inspired!
I see your point on the connection between curiosity and taking action. “what should be done” is a question.
I take pride in being concise. I think you out did me.
Excellent stab at leadership characteristics. I think I’ll add two Cs from the world of Emotional Intelligence:
Compassion: It is empathy towards others that powers human interaction:
Connecting: As a leader, your ability to connect with people on an emotional level is essential to becoming a true leader.
Trust your intuition
Reblogged this on hippotential and commented:
Good insights, Dan. We run into these issues with many clients.
Something lacking in many leaders today is GUTS as in fortitude and determination.
BTW, how is your physical therapy coming along?
I love this post Dan. So true. I recently was involved in a programme in a company where the leaders challenge was to start thinking and behaving more with an ‘Enquiring’ style rather than an ‘Advocacy’ style. It brought out some great learning – all along the lines you have touched on here.
Here’s my personal ABCDE’s of Leadership. Authentic, Bold, Candid, Determined, Energetic/Enthusiastic.
For me all of them are crucial.
Whatever your goals are whether its profits, customer satisfaction, employee development you have to be genuine and authentic about how you go about it. Faking it only gets you so far. Especially when today most of your employees & customers are often smarter than you.
Leaders got to be bold, daring, risk taking especially in these unpredictable, ever-changing times.
Also, they have to be upfront and not coy about matters. Time is of the essence. Be honest to own selves and also with colleagues and staff.
Nothing worthy truly materialises out of chance. Often hardwork and determination gets you where you want to be at.
Finally, if the leader lacks energy and enthusiasm, especially that sparkle in their eyes, who’s going to believe in them? Be in their teams?
Your thoughts pls.
The thing I like to do when reading stuff about Leadership is to replace the word “leadership” with another word, such as “hairdressing”. What you’ll find is that the narrative makes equal if not more sense!
The wonderfull irony of this post is that Leadership is the antithesis of its own analysis. Leadership is the illegitimate child of ‘judo-islam-ianity’ dogma and industrial command and control. It uses softer coffeeshop psychology language, but its the same old paradigm that it proports to be a cure for.
Open systems, like the biosphere, or a group of human beings, or a person when not subject to artificial control are always, self regulating through feedback (generated by their own intertactions).
Still … Nice post!
Could it be that “education” is not an impediment to creative thinking, but rather the type of education one has? My post-grad education (which admittedly was primarily British) taught me that memorization and regurgitating facts was insufficient. I was encouraged, challenged, and compelled to think through what others have presented, then process my own thoughts and find solutions for the unknown and the what-can-be.
I’m not sure it took, but they tried 😉
Thanks for the insightful posts.
Reblogged this on lewandog and commented:
Leadership Freak comes through again with some insight on the qualities of successful leaders.
** HINT –> read the comments too…lots of great adds by the community!!
This has to be a joke, right? I am not going to fall for it…”education a barrier, too much experience…?” Yeah, it’s a joke.
Very nice article thank you …i would add the ability in a leader to accept change …in order to conquer the knowledge and experiance factor