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Nine Qualities of a Leader

Over the years I have worked for many leaders, and with many clients. Some lived up to a handful of these criteria, others to most. A small number could lay claim to meeting all of these criteria, but often these individuals do not realise it because for them it is just who they are: they don't need to think about having integrity, or showing respect for others, any more than they have to think about breathing.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been sorting out my home office. In an old pile of magazines I found an early issue of Fast Company, with an article on leadeship which examined FedEx’s nine-point system for appraising it’s leaders.

Here, in summary, are the nine qualities on which senior managers at FedEx are rated:

  1. Charisma: The leader instils faith, respect and trust. Has a special gift of seeing what others need to consider. Conveys a strong sense of mission
  2. Individual consideration: Coaches, advises and teaches people who need it. Actively listens and gives indications of listening. Gives lots of help to newcomers
  3. Intellectual stimulation: Gets others to use reasoning and evidence rather than unsupported opinion. Enables others to think about old problems in new ways. Communicates in a way that forces others to rethink ideas they have never questioned before
  4. Courage: Willing to stand up for ideas, even unpopular ones. Does not bow to pressure or others’ opinions inorder to avoid a confrontation. Will do what’s right for the company and its employees, even at the cost of personal hardship
  5. Dependability: Follows through and keeps commitments. Takes responsibility for actions and accepts responsibility for mistakes. Works well independently of the boss
  6. Flexibility: Functions effectively in changing environments. When a lot of issues hit at once, handles more than one problem at a time. Changes course when the situation warrants it
  7. Integrity: Does what is morally and ethically right. Does not abuse management privilege. Provides a consistent role model
  8. Judgement: Reaches sound and objective evaluations of alternative courses of action through logic, analysis and comparison. Assembles facts rationally and realistically. Brings perspective to present decisions using past experience and information
  9. Respect for others: Honours and does not belittle the opinions or work of others, regardless of their status and position

What struck me most about this list is that it is not just about behaviour and competency; it is as much about values and style. It’s also a hard list to live up to. Over the years I have worked for many leaders, and with many clients. Some lived up to a handful of these criteria, others to most. A small number could lay claim to meeting all of these criteria, but often these individuals do not realise it because for them it is just who they are: they don’t need to think about having integrity, or showing respect for others, any more than they have to think about breathing. And by the same token, at appraisal time it can be difficult to gather evidence directly: "can you remember a time when I treated you with respect?" is an odd question for a superior to ask a subordinate, which is where it can be easier to ask staff what they believe are their superior’s core values, ideally in a way that promotes a frank and open exchange.

360 feedback programmes provide an ideal way of colelcting this type of information, however corporate 360s often focus on performance, and especially on performance gaps, turning them into a painful process with five minutes discussing strengths and the rest of the hour examining weaknesses in minute detail. The Reach 360 system provides a more stengths- and values-focussed evaluation mechanism which appeals to the ‘Maximiser‘ in me

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