Leadership Qualities – your results revealed
We recently completed our first serious survey to headline the April issue. The topic? “What are the most required/desired qualities in a Leader today?”
As our first survey I had a little apprehension of the level of engagement – we are all busy and even though we may have strong views on a topic we are not always around or have to tools available to voice them.
We originally compiled a week long short-survey and asked “what qualities in a Leader were most required” and from the responses to this request, we compiled a list of the 20 most popular qualities. We sent this full survey out across our online networks, social media applications and to our members and subscribers. We posted weekly reminders so that everyone had the chance to complete the survey. A report containing the full results is elsewhere in the magazine.
In all honesty I was a little disappointed with some of the initial comments posted to me after the original request. Several people seemed to be confused between a leader and a manager whilst others seemed only capable of understanding leadership in terms of their skills and viewed the request as an opportunity for self promotion. The issue of leader/manager I feel warrants some expansion and I have, after no small amount of deliberation, to hijack a wonderful phrase that my colleague, Zoe Hanks of Greenshoots Ideas found, originally attributed to Peter Drucker;
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”. I like this and will leave you to read Zoe’s wonderful article for further elaboration on this matter.
So, on to the survey. It seems clear from the results that Mr Drucker’s definition only goes so far as the most popular qualities in the poll focus on the ‘softer
‘ elements of behaviour and suggest that it is not just ‘what‘ you do but ‘the way that you do it‘. I cannot tell you how personally pleased I am that integrity came out as the single most required trait 78% of people considering it to be a critical quality. I will, however, also admit to being surprised. I have had the fortune to work in businesses of all sizes and in truth my own integrity was in almost permanent conflict with the behaviour of my colleagues, particularly the senior ones; leaders all they professed. Countless examples I could cite but suffice to say that the concluding episode in my corporate career was specifically because I could not compromise. Not again. I could not sit around the Boardroom table professing to my admiration of the Emperors New Clothes. He was, quite clearly to me, totally butt naked. A particularly un-palatable image of the company direction was made all the more nauseating by this obnoxious and self-promoting display of naturism and the refusal of my peers to acknowledge it. I left them to consider their own integrity and respective consciences shortly after.
Unfortunately, arrogant and self-serving lack of integrity is not the sole dominion of the corporate boardroom. I have had the dubious pleasure of working with entrepreneurs that feel that their position and independence permits them to follow the ‘do as I say, not as I do‘ rule. Dual standards, public humiliation of junior staff, lack of gratitude and ‘adoption‘ of others’ creative ideas are just some of the unpleasant actions that I have witnessed on many occasions. Desperate and appalling behaviour.
Integrity as number 1 – I am inspired and almost elated. I am no less thrilled to see communication (75%) and motivation (69%) coming close behind. It takes little further examination to understand that if leaders display the qualities of integrity – consistency, trust, being genuine – then communicating these qualities effectively leads to higher levels of motivation in staff and colleagues. Leaders please note; we know what integrity is and we respond to it positively. If you are consistent and genuine and trusting, so will we be.
The top ‘important‘ quality was open-ness, closely followed by intelligence. I understand that being open is an admirable quality but also understand that under certain circumstances being fully open and honest may prove testing; even risky. What I interpret the results of suggesting, however, is that open and honest communication is at worst, important, and at best, critical. I am sure that you can think of many situations whereby you have felt that you were not being given all of the facts. Indeed, there are people around that revel in the situation of possessing more information than others around them and use this as a tool of power. It is regrettable, maybe understandable, but guess what, not acceptable. We are all intelligent beings and whether through our questioning or by our intuition we usually know when we are being duped; the fact that we choose to accept it is a moot point. Leaders, do not confuse position with power or information with intelligence if you are to be successful – our survey says!!
Experience is an oddity to some degree; how do you get it without having had it in the first place? A behavioural “chicken and egg” situation. In the survey, however, experience of the product, the market, of previous management or of life in general all appear as important and/or preferred qualities but not as critical ones. Essentially, if you have the critical qualities detailed above then direct knowledge and experience can be gained – you will get the time and support it would seem.
Finally, there was a small yet slightly remarkable surprise waiting for me at the end of the survey. And what was this – the chocolate raisin in the bag of revels? Generosity.
Apparently generosity is not that required in a leader, coming in 3rd in the ‘not required‘ section with 38%. Maybe I too am guilty with confusing leadership with management at this juncture as I always tried to share my successes (not pressure or failures!) with my colleagues and staff. Whether in the form of creative bonuses, gratitude for performance, time for volunteering or simply drinks in the pub I personally feel that generosity is always welcomed and appreciated. On this I stand corrected; maybe if I had completed this survey in my past roles I could have saved myself some time, effort and considerable bar bills!
I would like to thank all those of you that took the time to complete the survey. I have learned from it’s results and hope that you, the leaders of today and tomorrow I hope, have too, but just for the record, I intend to maintain my generous nature. After all, we have to plough our own furrow, but that said, I trust that the responses provided will give you all inspiration and information of the required qualities as you develop your careers as leaders.