Characteristics of a Good Business Leader

Goldsmith:  Depends on the job. I would say a good leader is a person who produces results and develops people in the level where they’re expected to lead and a good leader at one position may or may not be a good leader at another position. Companies change. Expectations change. People change. You can’t make an assumption that great leader X, first-line supervisor, is going to be a great CEO and you can’t make the assumption that a great CEO in one company is necessarily going to be a great CEO in another company. It doesn’t always work. Does the person fit that situation?  And again I mentioned that study. I mentioned five qualities for the future. There--  We had ten other qualities that came up on our research and these are all things that you’d expect like integrity, ability to communicate a vision, customer satisfaction, etc., etc. There’s one quality though I think that we don’t look at enough in terms of the importance for leading people. That is does this person love leading people?  The best leaders I’ve met who lead people are people who love leading people. They just love it. It’s not a chore for them. They don’t hate it. They come to work every day. They’re motivated. They’re enthusiastic. They love leading people. Well, if you love leading people, then you’re going to take it serious. You’re probably going to study it. You’re going to try to get better. You care. And if you don’t love leading people, you’re often just faking it and unfortunately some people are excellent technicians and the only way they can get promoted is to be in to management. They get in to management. They really don’t care for leading people at all but they do it anyway. The problem is they don’t have their heart in it. So I think the key to success in most fields:  If you have your heart in it. If you do, you probably do okay and if you don’t you can’t.

Question: Can a successful business leader lack integrity?

Goldsmith:  Depends how you define leader. Would you want to work with someone who didn’t have integrity?  I doubt it. If you ask people, “Think of the worst leader you ever had,” a lot of times they mention integrity. Think of the best leader you ever had. I never read the best leader ever had lacked integrity so I never read that one so far so I would think that’s a basic bottom line characteristic of a great leader. People have to trust you and if they don’t have to trust you it’s highly unlikely you’re going to be a great leader, and by the way different people define integrity in different ways. So you could take a leader who’s seen as not a good human being by some people. Relative to their own values they might have high integrity so it’s- you have to be careful about integrity. How much of this is an absolute statement and how much of this is a statement relative to the cultural values of the person you’re talking to?

Marshall Goldsmith discusses the five qualities of a good business leader for the future.