Leadership Lessons From the Best Executives

Here is this month’s piece from Brand Velocity, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that is putting Peter Drucker’s ideas into practice at major corporations.

Each year, I have the privilege of judging the 100 top information technology initiatives for CIO Magazine. It’s always a wonderful experience, and I get to see many brilliant connections that some of the best IT leaders in the world make between technology, innovation and business value.

All the while, my Brand Velocity colleagues and I have gotten a chance to observe how many of these leaders act up close, in real life. What’s most striking is that, over and over, these men and women stand out not so much for their technical expertise, but for excelling in four very humanistic areas—all of them noted by Peter Drucker. As a rule, they are:

  • Confident and secure. We’ve found that the best leaders are friendly, dependable and emotionally stable. They are people who seem to care more about others and the big picture than they do about themselves. In this way, they earn trust. “It is character through which leadership is exercised,” Drucker wrote. “It is character that sets the example.”
  • Humble yet courageous: The best leaders are willing to take intelligent risks, and are open to learning from their experiences. It has been rare that we’ve found truly successful leaders to be either arrogant or indecisive. “I would never promote a man into a top-level job who has not made mistakes,” Drucker noted.
  • Great at coaching: We’ve watched the best leaders support, mentor and share the credit. In organizations, successfully getting work done usually depends on other people. Not surprisingly, it is common to see strong leaders produce other great leaders. As Drucker wrote, “An effective leader wants strong associates; he encourages them, pushes them, indeed glories in them.”
  • Excellent communicators: The best leaders often have an ability to listen well, give useful feedback and take the time to explain what they need and why. In many respects, they successfully use words as a currency. “The leader’s first task is to be the trumpet that sounds a clear sound,” Drucker explained.

Inside and outside of IT, we have found effective leadership to be an important catalyst for innovation and reinvention in organizations. Fortunately, many of the qualities that are noted above can be learned.

It begins with you imagining being the boss you wish you had. For many, the journey can and does start there.

Jack Bergstrand is the founder of Brand Velocity, author of Reinvent Your Enterprise and creator of the Strategic Profiling tool and Action Planning process. He can be reached at jb@brandvelocity.com.