Matthew and Janice are entrepreneurs who’ve been in business for nearly two years. They recently decided to attend a leadership conference to help them remain competitive leaders/entrepreneurs in a global economy.
What began as a conversation about the occupational role of a leader turned quickly into an exchange over the most important traits of a leader, and how the most successful leaders are not simply measured by their knowledge, but more importantly, measured by their character.
Intelligence isn’t a replacement for high character.
Matthew and Janice concluded that successful organizations have leaders who are not only functionally proficient — but more importantly — are leaders who have developed necessary characteristics to empower employees and develop sustainable organizations.
When you embark on your leadership journey, it is critically important to acknowledge that success is not simply about an executive’s credentials, but their well-developed character to ensure continued organizational growth and long-term success. There are seven characteristics of a highly successful leader to consider on the ‘F.O.R.T.U.N.E.’ leadership path.
Every leader must be:
The great tragedy of any organization is a leader who is paralyzed by fear. Fear is being unfamiliar with the unknown or simply being unwilling to take risks. Often the greatest challenge of any organization is not the current market conditions, revenue projections, profit margins or stock market volatility, but a leader’s own ability to confront self-imposed limitations rooted in fear. If the leader of an organization is paralyzed by fear, it will ultimately hinder the competitiveness and sustainability of the company. In the life of every business leader there will be a single defining event that will require a decisive moment of fearlessness to propel the organization forward. It may be unpopular for the few that you lead, but necessary for the many to catapult the organization forward. It is in this moment that courage is formed within the heart and mind of the leader which will position the organization to be on the cutting edge of its industry.
Many leaders have been educated to embrace the norm and the similar (hold onto tightly held paradigms) which create a very linear view on organizational growth and sustainability. A unique quality of highly successful business leaders is their ability to embrace uniqueness, distinctiveness and their authentic leadership style. An executive must be mindful that while it is essential to learn from other successful leaders, no two leaders are alike.
An original leader defies labels and is keenly aware of their value to their organization; unwilling to lead simply for the approval of others but is fully committed to expressing their authentic leadership identity. It’s living outside the ordinary leadership constructs that propels the leader to achieve the extraordinary.
Every business leader will experience peaks and valleys while managing an organization. It’s during these periods of personal and economic volatility that a resilient leader is required to properly lead the organization. In addition, a core competency of the executive must be able to identify sources of resistance which demand the leader to captain the organization during this period of instability. Resistance is often seen as a negative force in the lifecycle of a leader and organization. However, if properly understood, it’s a positive force to be leveraged if guided by a resilient executive.
A leader’s “hard” skills are often valued over “soft” skills. Successful leaders recognize the critical importance of trust as a necessary “soft” skill. Trust is the ability to cultivate and demonstrate integrity, honesty and transparency within an organization. A successful leader is fully aware that trust is the foundation of every good relationship and a key commodity to building solid connections within the company. Trust is not only constructed at the top of an organization, but built at the bottom, creating multi-directional relationships throughout the enterprise. When a leader fosters trust, the team and colleagues form a powerful bond that helps the employees communicate more effectively and produce more efficiently.
The leadership life of an executive requires a delicate balance between rigidity and flexibility. Organizations should be agile and flexible as a matter of survival because companies today face an unprecedented level of change and volatility in the marketplace. While it may be tempting to take organizational shortcuts to traverse the market volatility, it’s during this turmoil that a leader must demonstrate a level of conviction to properly navigate the enterprise. Being an uncompromising leader is simply a conviction which is a firmly held belief. A business leader must be willing to take a stand and act according to organizational values and guiding principles.
Ethical business leaders live according to their own philosophy which has been developed, sharpened, and perfected throughout leadership experiences.
Nobility is defined as a quality of being honorable, excellent and of high regard, and having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals. A noble leader provides direction and purpose in any corporation. When there is a sense of nobility within a leader, he or she will determine the conduct of the organization. When it’s anchored within the heart, mind and soul of a leader, it will become embedded into the cultural DNA of the organization. Selfless service to the customer becomes the priority over a self-centered approach to conducting business in today’s economy.
The new leadership imperative now demands ethical leaders. In today’s climate, many leaders have succumbed to greed, been seduced by success and corrupted by power. True leaders can achieve greatness without compromising their character or code of conduct. Ethical business leaders live according to their own philosophy which has been developed, sharpened and perfected throughout leadership experiences. Before an executive can lead the many, he or she must first learn to master themselves. If the business leader stands for nothing, the organization will fall for anything.
It has been stated that, “Leading is a willful responsibility to sacrifice personal desires and comfort for the pleasure of those we lead and serve.” High character, moral conduct and a strong culture result in a boost in profits, highly-motivated employees and strong organizational outcomes. Furthermore, these seven characteristics were the engine that created a sense of authentic purpose which drove top performance, individually and organizationally.