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5 Qualities of Leadership

As I examine my own leadership strengths and weaknesses, it’s now easy for me to look back on the years that I ran two ad agencies in the 90s and examine more objectively the things I did well, as well as the (many) mistakes I made. We are all far wiser in hindsight and can view issues far more objectively from a distance, but it’s much harder to do so when you are in the midst of tough issues. But with that wisdom, I share what I believe are the 5 most important qualities of leadership:

1. A good listener

Leadership is about understanding the issues of business and the issues people have and then acting on them fairly and decisively. Best way to do this is listen first, then act. (Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood).

2. Ability to process information and make decisions, popular or otherwise.

I’ve often seen leaders make halfhearted decisions meekly, indecisively, and far too late. No surprise that these decisions are  have little impact as they are often too little, too late. Making a tough decision that is the right one, but not a popular one, is difficult. Real leaders make hard decisions.

3. Rewarding performance over longevity

This one is kind of obvious. Performance is key. Great performers should be rewarded while weaker performers should not. But often one’s longevity clouds objectivity, particularly if a weak performer was once a higher performer but for whatever reason is now “mailing it in”

4. Vision

Business is changing so quickly in every industry. The best leaders understand the changing nature of their business, embrace the changes, and make decisions accordingly. While your business does not have to be a pioneer in every change, it surely needs to be among the leaders rather than a grudging follower.

5. Inspirational

Good leaders are not above the team but part of the team. Yet they have qualities others admire and inspire others to be their best. They are a role model for hard work, integrity and passion. And they have “muddy boots” as my buddy Dave Griffith (and a great leader) would say.

So I ask those of you in leadership roles, which qualities do you have, and where do you fall short? We are all human, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t measure up on all accounts. Just make 2014 the year that you make real leadership strides.

What important leadership qualities did I miss?




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One Comment

  1. Caroline Oakes says:

    Thanks again for another great list, Lonny.

    When you ask what qualities did you miss, I don’t think you missed one — I would add under “Inspirational” that a good leader also tries to model the ways they’re able to SUSTAIN those qualities they have that others admire and inspire others. What fuels the capacity of good leaders to do what they do well, even in hard times?

    What comes to mind is what some places like Google and others are doing, promoting mindfulness-based stress reduction, retreats, creating screen-free quiet spaces and other practices as ways to help center and ground leaders/workers in their integrity and passion.

    I’m thinking this awareness can also be a win-win for companies by doing much to help prevent strong performers from burning out/mailing it in.

    thanks again!

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