Characteristics of Leadership

Leaders learn from observation and experience. Successful leaders are not born with a magic formula. Instead, each creates a unique formula by tapping into personal experiences, talents, strengths and weaknesses.

We also learn by observing successful leaders and analyzing their characteristics, as Adam Bryant did for a decade through his Corner Office column for the New York Times. In the process, he interviewed 525 CEOs, and in his final column he summarized lessons learned in a piece titled, "How to be a CEO."

In keeping with my penchant for leadership attributes that begin with the letter c, I took away three Cs from this column -- curiosity, challenge and commitment.

Bryant observed that leaders have a natural curiosity about people, places, things and processes. They have a propensity to question the status quo and are driven by a desire for change.

Of course, organizations invariably resist change and a leader has to be ready to take on this challenge. Bryant writes that most of the CEOs he interviewed never shied away from a challenge and even relished them.

Another key attribute common among CEOs was their commitment to their current positions. Even though they were ambitious, for without ambition they would not have risen to the level of CEO, they gave their very best at whatever position they held. They never shirked current responsibility in search of greener pastures.

In addition to curiosity, challenge and commitment, trustworthiness and respect for team members were attributes that these CEOs shared. It is important to note that it is not the team's respect for the leader, but the leader's respect for the team that was identified as a key leadership characteristic.

Before you move on to this week's reflection, how about whetting your curiosity by reading Bryant's column?

For self-reflection, spend some time this week identifying a leader you admire. You can choose a contemporary leader or one from the past. You can choose an epic hero or heroine, or an everyday leader you encounter at work. What are the characteristics of this leader that you find so admirable? Do they have the characteristics identified by Bryant? Share your thoughts with us.

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