Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Next-Level Leadership: If You Ask 12 People What They Think Are the Essential Attributes of Leadership, You'll Likely Get a Dozen Conflicting Opinions

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Next-Level Leadership: If You Ask 12 People What They Think Are the Essential Attributes of Leadership, You'll Likely Get a Dozen Conflicting Opinions

Article excerpt

Columbia University performed a Delphi study to determine critical areas of leadership. This type of study, named after the Greek oracle at Delphi, polls leading experts to elicit their future prognostications--in this case, which characteristics were essential for successful leadership in the first part of the 21st century. Senior industry leaders agreed on four critical areas:

Honesty

In my mind, honesty partially is about what you say to others, but even more about what you tell yourself. I've found a leader's self-honesty, including the ability to dispassionately identify her or his own strengths and limitations, to be an essential precursor to higher-level functioning. After all, if you don't know where you currently are less effective, you won't be able to adjust your course as needed, to work on improving these skills or even decide where to hide your weaknesses (and so avoid embarrassing or undercutting yourself).

Not strong at presenting to senior managers? If you soberly see this, you can bring in someone else to present, such as a colleague or consultant, and work at upgrading your executive persuasion skills over time.

Vision

In my experience, most people associate "vision" with looking toward a future where they wish to be. I think of this as vertical vision. There's no question it is critical to planning, and the more detailed the better.

But there is another equally important aspect--horizontal vision, which is the ability to look around to see what currently is going on. What are our competitors doing? Who are my allies and resisters? Where is there enthusiasm for safety and where are people just going through the motions while observed so they won't get written up?

Vision by itself isn't enough; it has to be combined with the right actions. As the Japanese proverb relates, "Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare."

Strategy

Strategic thinkers are able to assess a wide range of contributing factors to an event and then plan for effecting positive change. When times are difficult, they still are able to see the silver lining in any cloud. When things are going well, they are able to perceive potentially accumulating clouds.

For example, many safety professionals have expressed concern about dealing with their corporate attorneys. How can they engender trust when their lawyers admonish them to admit nothing, to leave no openings and to significantly restrict communications? …

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