In February, I had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference where different work groups took different topics to brainstorm. Our workgroup discussed the traits that they found most desirable in a leader. There were many, as we thought about leaders we admired. The ‘most voted for’ traits were:

  • Respect for the individual: Genuine interest in the individual. They don’t look at the person as a military asset. The example provided was of Bill Clinton. The anecdote (or urban myth) was that Bill Clinton walks in a room and the person he is speaking to feels like the most important person in the room, regardless of status.
  • Inspires you to the next level: Holds you accountable for your results, while helping you set bigger – broader – higher goals. The leader also ensures that the team builds a vision and that everyone knows where we are going and that those goals are inline with the team goals.
  • Trusts you and you can trust her/him: You know that they have your back. This goes back to the ‘take smart risks, learn and be encouraged’. While at the same time is open, honest – no hidden agenda, providing the good and the negative feedback. Without feedback from someone we trust, how can we improve?
  • Passionate about what they are doing, where we are going and who they are doing it with: You know they love what they are doing, you can just tell.
  • Communicates a vision: People thrive on a vision. Give people a destination, that place we are going to and they will help build the strategy to get there. Without that, it is like driving down a highway with no end in sight.

In the next room, another team went through the topic ‘Managing in Tough Times’. It was simply two lists with words under the topics ‘Do More’ and ‘Do Less’. I felt compelled to write it down and here it is:  In tough times ….

  • DO MORE: Coaching, collaborating, remaining visible, listening, communicating, humour, transparency, empowering, exciting, optimism, risk taking, clarity, celebrating, stories, challenging, simplifying, caring, inspiring, acknowledging vulnerabilities.
  • DO LESS: controlling, avoidance, distracting with internal tasks and spreadsheets, complexity, reacting, isolating, ego, rules, cynicism, 8 hour meetings, 3 hour weekly meetings that cover the same thing, worrying about what you don’t control, bullying.

Thought provoking.

The last speaker of the event had a few insights that I found interesting, focusing primarily on the current global recession:

  • A slowdown in growth exposes mediocrity. All of the warts that were hidden during good economic times come out in full force. Don’t waste the opportunity to build a stronger business.
  • Hire great people and hire carefully. A wrong hire is a 2-3 year mistake. The first 6 months to realize that it was the wrong hire, the second 6 months to make a change. The next 6 months to find a replacement and the last 6 months to ramp them.
  • When the market is not growing, it is all about share. How are you performing against the competition?

And the last thing he shared:

  • Love is a given. Trust and respect are earned.

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