Four leadership qualities for getting things done.
People tend to think of a leader as someone who can set the agenda. But the real value of leadership lies in execution. The key difference between a great consultant and a great leader is in the ability to turn ideas into reality. What's more, while ideas can be generated by an individual, execution can be accomplished only by a team that works together.
In my previous column, I talked about the key competencies for CIOs to be able to create a compelling business-technology proposition: great pattern recognition, street smarts and technical savvy. An additional set of competencies is required to build a great team that is skilled and loves to get up in the morning and go to work. These competencies are more like qualities than intellectual or managerial traits. They include character, leadership development, passion and influencing skills. Although these qualities are seldom emphasized in executive performance objectives, I have found them to be the "secret sauce" of great leaders with whom I have worked over the years.
Character: Doing the Right Thing
Character has been described as ethical behaviour, intellectual integrity, openness and honesty. These terms have come to the forefront over the past few years - the attention spawned by corporate excesses. Although Sarbanes-Oxley, corporate governance and ethical guidelines are top-of-mind these days, they are simply table stakes.
My definition of character is much more fundamental. It is what you do, not what you say. I've worked for and with many terrific leaders over the years in various corporate cultures. Some of these leaders were collaborative, others were directive; some were relaxed, others intense; some had "command presence", while others were quiet and calm.
As a young man, I found it very curious that I was attracted to so many diverse leadership styles. As the years went by, though, it became clear to me that style had little to do with it. The common ingredient all these leaders possessed was the substance of their character. No matter what the issue or the struggle or the possible personal gain or loss, they always - not just occasionally - did the right thing. Not only the right thing from a business or economic aspect, but the right thing including social and philosophical dimensions.
This consistency of character is hard to describe but easy to recognize. People will rally around leaders who do the right things consistently. They know they can count on their leaders to be open and honest at every fork in the road and to take a stand regardless of the personal risk. When people feel their leaders are erratic, political or detached from them, they will become cynical. They will generally do their work but won't be committed. Their trust can only be built over time, so don't become discouraged if people take a "show me" attitude.
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