When someone ask you the names of great leaders do you immediately think of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk? Leadership for many is defined as confidence over competence, authority before empathy and profit over purpose. The entry of more women into upper management and the “me too” movement seem to be bringing more compassionate leadership into the top roles. Hyper-masculinity as a symbol of competence is slowly fading according to The Harvard Business Review. What are the traits of a great leader today?
The Basic Traits Needed
There are the bare minimum skills that push people to the top of the leadership pyramid. Accountability is something that is easy to recognize early in a person’s career. Lower-level managers often hold their subordinates responsible for problems or mistakes, but the best leaders take responsibility and manage to move on productively. Adaptability and confidence mean great leaders can bend and change as needed yet communicate confidence in the choices they’ve made. They exude positivity and are resilient when things go wrong. Transparency in decisions and actions are very important traits of a great leader. Great leaders are very clear about the direction of the firm, of their role and of their subordinate’s roles.
Traits of a Great Leader TODAY
The digital transformation of society, the necessity of global execution and the need for constant innovation means the traits needed to be a great leader must “spark innovation within an organization and across external organizations and ecosystems.” HBR goes on to say that great leaders invite others to co-create the future with them by putting together a team with diverse expertise and experience who are willing to collaborate, experiment and learn together, and might be both inside and outside the organization. Including talent and vision from academia, non-profits, political organizations, suppliers or even competitors has never been more important.
Great leaders have to inspire and be a visionary. They are both the architect of this culture and lead the creation of the needed capabilities. They are the bridge between all these diverse groups, or, they create the bridges that allow these groups to work effectively. They are the catalyst for these multiparty collaborations and they know when to step away and let those most closely tuned into the need succeed. No longer do great leaders derive their power from their place in the hierarchy, but from freeing people to take initiatives and risks that lead to even incremental innovation, or, possibly, dramatic change.