Late last year I ran a poll via LinkedIn asking the question: what is the most important leadership trait, skill or attribute that you would like to see developed and improved in 2013? I was very pleased with the number of responses, receiving 226 votes. What was most satisfying was the effort many people put into the supporting comments of which 49 added to their vote with their thoughts.
There are many well-balanced, thoughtful and insightful people in my network and I thank you all for taking the time to add to the discussion. I will add that the 3 or 4 foolish people who took the time to repeatedly add very little constructive thought and feel the need to use domains such as LinkedIn polls to vent and argue with each other about trivialities is disappointing and diminishes the process for others. I do not understand it, however recognise that some people really do miss the point when it comes to value-add and sharing. Thankfully they are in the minority.
For the vast majority who voted and left comments, this blog is dedicated to the excellent and thought-provoking insights. I did not initially intend to write a blog on the topic, as the poll was created for my business needs however with the high quality comments provided, when summarised and presented on one page, really do add value to the relevance and position of leadership in our world today.
Clearly, I had many options that could have been included as leadership attributes and skills, however with a limit of 5 criteria and specific reasons for including those listed, the results were quite fascinating. Interestingly, although the results were quite even it was the ‘leadership soft-skills’ and self-awareness based attributes that were deemed as most important to focus on.
As the comments are in the public domain, available to all I have kept each contributors first name with their individual comment – my favourites are:
I believe that most people issues start with their own mindset. If everyone would work harder on themselves first they would be in much better shape to lead others. As John Maxwell teaches in his newest book “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” every person needs to start with the development of their own personal and professional growth plan. We all should be on a “growth” journey and that will vastly improve our leadership abilities. David – Voted for Self-Awareness (Honesty, Growth)
I’ve worked in too many companies where communication does not flow down to those that need to implement changes. Therefore productivity is effected when work is done that does not meet new company guidelines and time is wasted having to fix work and bring it up to the new standard. I’m not saying that the other areas are any less important but feel that as change is our constant companion in the workplace, communication skills are key to developing a happy, knowledgeable, productive workplace. Dale – Voted for Communication Skills & Ability
It is surprising how much of self-awareness (honesty/growth) is missing across key leadership level – any good literature has tonnes reported on this. Its almost like honesty/trust/growth/respect was to flow downside-up or follower-to-leader and not the other way. Call it benign oblivion or conscious side-stepping, people see through this. And question how these people made it to leadership positions in the first place. Evidently, people-who-matter are equally part of it.That said, people will not recognize us as leaders behind our backs short of this. Amit – Voted for Self-Awareness (Honesty, Growth)
I think too many leaders today lack the foresight of vision and this translates into poor communication skills. Great leaders have always been able to “see the future” and engage people into bridging the gap, no matter how large or big the obstacles may be. The problem for leaders in setting great vision is covering the massive failure that can follow, and as such leaders look to hedge their bets, to the point where there is no vision, no communication and no leadership in sight. I say give it a go, envision an outcome for yourself or for your company and start engaging people in the vision – it’s the only way I know of to create massive change. Peter – Voted for Communication Skills & Ability
Emotional Intelligence would have been my answer. Self-awareness took my vote because at least that is an element of EI. Leaders with exceptional EI can learn to coach others effectively, but you can’t coach others effectively without exceptional EI. My second choice was communication skills but only because of how self-awareness (and EI) impact our communication. Great leadership is all about how well we are able to manage relationships with those around us. And we can’t manage relationships without understanding ourselves, managing ourselves, and understanding others. I believe that all of our organizations would be remarkably better places if our collective EI was increased by 10%. Nearly every employee in the world knows what makes a great leader. So why is great leadership such an uncommon practice? The answer is that very few people understand what EI is and the impact of developing our EI competencies. The “way” we interact with others matters. And self-awareness is that first step. Mike – Voted for Self-Awareness (Honesty, Growth)
Having a high level of self awareness is a key trait to have for those in leadership roles. It enables the leader to diminish those blind spots that are often career blockers. Marcia – Voted for Self-Awareness (Honesty, Growth)
There is little benefit in being adept at all aspects without the ability to communicate your knowledge, understanding and ideas. Communication is a very broad term and its not only about what YOU think, so to be more accurate, true LISTENING is a skill that is often overlooked, a bad practitioner not only misses the boat but often leaves others feeling disregarded. Dave – Voted for Communication Skills & Ability
Until and unless a person is not able to communicate properly I don’t think he can be a good leader, without communication skills a person can be a good employee or a smart worker but to be a LEADER he/she has to be absolutely brilliant with both internal & external communication capabilities. Raheel – Voted for Communication Skills & Ability
I believe that to lead, manage, communicate appropriately and coach other people, it is fairly fundamental that a leader has a high level of self awareness about themselves and others. One must lead and self manage themselves first before you can lead other people. Employees can be taught different management, coaching and communication skill & techniques but the fundamental building block is self awareness. I don’t believe you can excel at the other areas without a high level of self awareness. Alison – Voted for Self-Awareness (Honesty, Growth)
I voted for Communication Skills & Ability because without the ability to communicate effectively, one cannot be a good coach. Good communication skills also requires honesty to be an effective communicator. Management also requires excellent communication skills as does Leadership. So, the ability to communicate effectively and concisely, allows all of the other traits/attributes to be able to grow successfully. Sharon – Voted for Communication Skills & Ability
Self awareness provides an individual a road map that promotes personal and professional growth. More importantly, this gift provides an honest self appraisal that allows an individual to learn the importance of collaboration and input from a mentor. Suzanne – Voted for Self-Awareness (Honesty, Growth)
This was insightful. I ultimately voted for the self-awareness piece. From my experience, leaders who are not aware of their own strengths, weaknesses and others’ perception of them are often unable to sound and be authentic. This translates into the questioning of their intent and motivation, which leads to mistrust at many levels. I have to understand me and my skills first before I can be influential with others. Shirley – Voted for Self-Awareness (Honesty, Growth)
Coaching potential candidates for future leadership positions to ensure organization’s continuity & prosperity is the most important trait of all great leaders. Being able to retire knowing that what you have accomplished remains in good, capable hands is vital for a distinguished leader’s peace of mind once he hands over the fort to his properly groomed successor(s). Communication skills are also important but I believe that it constitute part of good coaching as well. Without good communications coaching can not be performed well. Therefore, I find some overlap between Communications & Coaching skills. Adel – Voted for Coaching Skills & Capability
Management skills and application. I especially find applying what you know and getting others to follow suit is rather daunting to me as leader. After all the fine speeches and charts, when you get to the nuts and bolts then only you found your inadequacies may be disastrous. Michael – Voted for Management Skills & Application
I am reminded of James Collins’ “Good to Great” in which he went in length arguing that one of the key characteristics that differentiates great leaders from mere good ones is how great leaders invest in grooming their successors. It is not enough that they succeed. They also want to ensure that, when the key is turned over, the next generation can continue to thrive and lead their companies down the path of prosperity. Evan – Voted for Coaching Skills & Capability
Communications because it is the base from which the other options start. If there is anything, at any time, we could progress, it is always communication. Brad – Voted for Communication Skills & Ability
These are the comments that resonated with me the most. What are your thoughts?
No matter the input you have or your yearly goals, I hope that 2013 brings you all that you are looking for, continues to challenge you in the right way and by December you are better off for having developed your skills, capability and mindset through your choices throughout this year.