A strange thing happened on a flight to Perth recently. The guy in the seat next to me actually talked to me! We ended up chatting the whole way to Perth. Five hours.
During our conversation we talked about our respective jobs and when I told him my occupation he asked lots of questions. One of them was what I thought were the essential qualities for a leader. I think I surprised him with my answer, which got me thinking, why was my answer such a surprise?
Most perceptions include something bold, strong, commanding, knowledgeable, inspiring, and more. Programs are built to turn people into “strong” leaders.
In my opinion this misses the point. Leaders lead people so different qualities are needed.
In my opinion this is the first, and most essential, quality. Someone that is humble listens and learns. They don’t believe they have all the answers so they ask for input, and this engages and inspires people to contribute more. It creates “discretionary effort.” People willingly to do more than asked.
Contrast this with the “strong” leader, in my experience they always need to be there to “command” and they create very little extra value. If you want someone to simply tell people what to do then humility is not required. However, it is required if you want someone that will engage and develop others.
2. Emotional Maturity
There are a few studies out of the US showing Emotional Maturity as predetermining success in senior leaders. I totally agree. Clear thought, sound judgement, the ability to listen and hear are all essential qualities which are compromised if the person is upset, angry, or even distracted.
This may also surprise a few people, but I think it is critical. Good leaders create leaders. They won’t do this if they don’t provide opportunity, share information, share resources, teach, educate, mentor. To do this they need to be generous.