Top Ten Qualities of Exceptional Leaders
Fitting in is the formula for mediocrity. Average is safe, boring, and deadly.
I’ve been rubbing elbows with outstanding leaders from organizations on the Great Place to Work list of exceptional companies. Excellence electrifies the air at their annual conference.
Outstanding leaders live by bold principles.
Exceptional leaders courageously declare themselves.
I’m hearing things like:
- Values driven employees solve problems without direction from management.
- Take better care of your employees than anyone else.
- Love builds better companies than fear.
- One great person is more productive than three good people.
- Let people pick their own colleagues. We love group interviews. (In regard to the hiring process)
- We interview prospective employees six or seven times. Many quit before the process is done.
- We have 7,000 employees and don’t have an HR department.
- The stronger the culture the more open you can become.
- Anonymity breeds irresponsibility. (On giving anonymous feedback)
- CEO’s drive organizational culture. (More so in smaller organizations)
- Courageously declare themselves.
- Embrace bold principles.
- Live authentically.
- Pursue exceptional.
- Expect others to rise to challenges.
- Practice rigorous accountability.
- Don’t make exceptions for themselves.
- Believe in uncomfortable transparency.
- Love their organizations.
- Put people first.
Some organizations reward fitting in and punish standing out. Exceptional leaders, on the other hand, make fitting in dangerous.
You can’t fit in if you plan to stand out.
Follow Great Place to Work on Twitter: @GPTW_US (Highly recommended)
List: 100 Best Companies to Work For
What qualities do you see in exceptional leaders?
What bold principles guide your leadership?
Thanks Dan, You just made my day! I’m preparing for an important internal leadership meeting on future strategies and was concerned I am perhaps too critical towards some of the issues I see in the preparation documents we have been provided with. Your post has strengthened my resolve to stick to my plan and say that as leaders in our company, we can do better. In fact we can improve on most of the things mentioned in your article and in my opinion especially on points 3, 6, 8 and 10.
Hmm, maybe my presentation should just be one slide containing a link to your blog and the numbers 3, 6, 8 and 10! But of course that would mean I wasn’t much good at following 1, 2, 8 or 9 myself…. 🙂
Really good post, that really did make my day and strengthened my resolve! Thanks again, Dan,
I’m finding that rubbing elbows with exceptional leaders calls me to rise up. Perhaps you can be a leader who helps people rise up.
One added word comes to mind, compassion. Exceptional leaders know how to have compassion AND pursue excellence at the same time.
I hear you, Dan. Compassion is indeed key which is one of the reasons why the motto I chose for our corporate security program is “Always Care!” It’s a-typical for our line of work, but a powerful reminder that has been very successful for us. Every day, I am extremely thankful that I have a team of professionals that lives the motto even in the most difficult circumstances.
LOVE it… best wishes
Great point Dan, vicarious accountability!?
As I have been learning about the philosophy and values behind TPS and their Lean philosophy, values, coaching, methods and tools, I have to own in my own home where I don’t ‘5S’ and need to. Where I don’t respect and need to. Where I don’t continuously improve and need to. Feels almost like a Roseanne Roseannadanna moment…. 😉
Would add that values driven employees (can identify and) solve the problems without direction from management because that is the best way to have lasting results. Gemba knows best!
I believe exceptional leaders have a gift for making others feel valued.
When we feel valued we are inspired to do our best work. Have you ever noticed that when someone compliments you, you want to do even greater things? It sets you on fire to succeed.
When we don’t feel valued, we operate in fear mode. We may work hard but the creativity and initiative go out the window. We are afraid to share new ideas. We freeze. This puts a lid on growth.
KAPOW! What a great thing to add.
Thanks for the pep talk – well timed. It was good to remember that when I keep my head down I hand the things most important to me over to someone who may not care for them.
Glad you feel encouraged. That’s how being around these great leaders makes me feel.
Love it! Put exceptional in, get exceptional out.
Put the ordinary in, get the ordinary out.
Decide your output by deciding your input.
Simply put, be like nobody else so you can be like nobody else. 🙂
I love a well turned phrase.
Some great points. Not surprised my company is not on the list. Our CEO recently sent out a communication to all employees acknowledging the success the company had last year in spite of many environment challenges. He acknowledged how important customer service is but in the entire page and a half he NEVER once acknowledged or thanked the 10,000+ employees that made this happen. Not surprising that our company has quit doing annual employee surveys. I think the Execs are tired of hearing how much they suck.
“Pursue Exceptional.” Wow. I love thoughts like that. Very Steve Jobs! It would be awesome to be in room with those leaders to pick their brains. Thank you for doing it for us!
Mediocrity is what is expected of us. It is what we are taught to be these days and I have always found that a hard place to be. This post is an inspiration to keep going and strive for excellence.
Exceptional leaders get it! Just not sure how to describe it. Know it when I feel it.
My bold principles…..I got a set!!!!! Then I got results that obliterate any futile resistance.
Plus I KNOW what I bother to talk about so I talk about MY TRUTH. Results no theories those who can do those who can’t teach!
I been sober and clean 29 years on May 22. You think you are really gonna talk me out if what works for me staying sober? Really really really….really?
Energized an Area. Before me tracking 2 sales a month if we finish April like we have been chugging among 100 sales annual 24 to 1200.
So you think you are gonna tell me what the rock is cooking isn’t smoking?
Now it takes GREAT teamwork. No great thing is accomplished alone, except great pontificating!!!!! Great cooperation everyone doing their best to cooperate and work together.
Reading the first 164 pages of the AA Big Book and just replace people where u see alcohol if you are not a drunk like me.
If you are not experiencing breakthroughs like me you might try some humility and engage in some personal research into what I am talking about. Not saying it will work for you, might not but what you fit to lose what you getting now for more? If you like what you are getting just repeat, if not open your mind and HOLD ON it is quite a ride!!!!
Great list! Can you expand on the “bold principles” part? Whose principles? How would one discover the principles, so to speak?
I’ve always found that being yourself is the best way to get along with people and to earn their trust and respect. Anybody who owns and runs a business the right way and legit has to be courageous because you are putting yourself out there and you don’t know how people will react to you.
Its Friday here in Australia and what an article to end the week. Awesome piece
A lovely post with good insight into an exceptional leadership style!
All 10 principles are the part and parcel of good leaders.Exceptional leaders stand out with degree scale and consistency. In a nutshell, professionalism is the key to success of a true leadership kind and people management adds the flavor to it.
I enjoy your posts — I am a very busy person, so just skim read a lot of stuff. Your post usually starts with info about the wrong way to do it….wrong qualities…..so I hit delete before getting to the point. Is it really necessary to review so much information on how not to do it right, point out shortcomings? Please send a post with ONLY positive info and comments and see what kind of response comes back!
Thanks for listening! Lana
I was at the conference as well – sorry I missed you there…
It struck me how consistent the theme was that Great Companies have Great Leaders and those leaders embody the principles you list above — in an AUTHENTIC way. These leaders speak from the heart and you can FEEL how much they care about their people, culture and Business results. Many themes spoke to the culture of the organization as being a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent and in achieving business results that surpass their peers.
Do you think it’s possible to create a great culture/ great workplace from a grace roots level? Leaders can be found at every level – both formal leaders and ‘informal’ leaders… but the span of influence is so much smaller… I’m sensing if the Leader at the top doesn’t get it, the journey for a great culture or company is….
Thanks for your posts – always spot on (Including the valuable discussion) – Mike
Accountability … a key attribute missing in far too many of today’s leaders.
“We interview prospective employees six or seven times. Many quit before the process is done”.
No wonder. Sounds like a very bureaucratic place to work. The “quitters” probably had job offers after (shock!) one interview, or two.