The Leadership Playbook: What I Want in a Leader

If I were hiring a leader, here is what I would want in the person I was hiring.

  • A Compelling, Inspiring Purpose and Vision: If you are going to lead, you are going to have to create followers. So, where are you taking us? Why should we want to go there, and more still, why should I want to go there? A leader provides a clear, compelling vision that inspires others to act. Without that vision, you aren’t a leader; you’re an administrator.
  • A Burning Desire to Win: For my money, I want a leader who loves a good fight. I want someone with a fire in their belly and an insatiable desire to win. A leader knows that her organization is competing, maybe against direct competitors, maybe for attention, maybe for donations. A leader can’t be someone who is okay with the losing; they have to hate losing, learn from it, and go back and compete again.
  • An Unshakeable Optimism: No one wants to follow a pessimist. No one wants a leader who believes all is lost. That isn’t something a leader can be. A leader can’t be the person who is full of fear and loathing when it comes to the future. Optimism is what allows you to act. A leader recognizes negatives as a burning platform and makes the decisions to move the organization she leads into a better future.
  • Impatience and a Sense of Urgency: Leaders know they are playing against a clock. They never believe they have enough time. A number of US Presidents (maybe all of them) have had calendars with the days they have remaining. They know that whatever they are going to get done has to be done now—if not sooner. They have to be impatient for results and lead their organization with a sense of urgency.
  • An Extraordinary Emotional Intelligence: There are countless stories about great leaders who were nasty, foul, and completely lacking in emotional intelligence. They are exceptional, not so much as leaders, but in that they are the exception. Great leaders have very high emotional intelligence. They can work a room. They rely on their powers of persuasion and not their formal authority because they know persuasion is more effective. A leader is in the “people business,” and that means they need an extraordinary emotional intelligence.
  • A Desire to Help Others Grow: A poor leader from a dominator hierarchy looks at their people as a means to an end. A great leader looks at their people as the end. They focus a good part of their time and attention on helping the people they lead grow and develop. A leader builds future leaders. They pull people up. They nurture people and teach others to do the same. A great leader knows that their legacy is how the organization performs after they are gone.

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