Do We Need Different Leadership Traits?

Do We Need Different Leadership Traits?

Vince Crew

Word Count: 387 words
Time to Read: 1 minute

It’s that perennial issue of leading versus managing where leading is long term/big picture while managing is day-to-day oversight respectively. Given recent headlines, perhaps it’s time leaders managed more and managers lead more.

Consider the CEO who is caught unawares of what’s going on with his companies - think James Murdoch of News Group Newspapers, Jon Corzine of MF Global, Tony Hayward of BP Oil, or Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan. These ill-fated executives, whether truthful of their ignorance or not, cannot be regarded as very good stewards of their company’s future… and isn’t that the role of a CEO?

Over the years I have advised both C-Suite executives and managers, “If the job was easy, they wouldn’t need you, ‘cause someone else cheaper, younger, and better looking could do it.” Obviously in my humorous approach to a serious issue, leaders must never forget: leading is heavy lifting and leading and managing go hand in hand.

Any manager so wrapped-up slogging through the daily grind that they have little or no appreciation of how their silo of functionality is connected to the rest of the company cannot be seen as a promising star for the team. Surely any divisional or corporate leader must also rise above daily responsibilities and count the bigger picture as critical too.

In the Global Leadership Research Project’s list of the top 11 factors HR executives cited as the most common causes for CEO succession failure, eight pertained to deficiencies in interpersonal skills:

  • failure to build relationships and a team environment
  • a mismatch for the corporate culture
  • inability to win company support
  • being egotistical
  • not flexible
  • poor management skills
  • poor communication
  • and lack of political savvy

Such findings may indicate selection criteria for CEOs focus too much on business experience and job knowledge, with too little concern for the people management side.

Selecting the right CEO and/or grooming a potential executive candidate takes more than technical know-how, big picture visioning, or any other attributes we typically assign to a leader’s slot. It takes the ability to get things done through other people and that means relating to people with intelligence, emotion, and sincerity.

Leaders seldom fail from incompetence but from incompatibility. Leadership today is a blend of awareness, ability, agility, and discipline. 



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