Timeless Leadership Qualities to Teach Future CEOs

It’s time to rethink how we develop leaders. As I engage with young professionals and executives, I continually hear that leadership hasn’t adapted quickly enough to the ever-evolving global business environment. That calls for a new approach.

To address this, many top organizations, including ours, are refusing to take the traditional ‘next-in-line’ approach as their only method for finding leaders. They’re ditching their blinders and scanning the horizon for candidates who might not have previously been part of the succession conversation. This is an indication that leadership development is at a crossroads. And it’s a tremendous opportunity to jumpstart the process in a different way.

“89% of respondents from 130 countries said strengthening, reengineering and improving organizational leadership is a priority.”

In a recent Deloitte report that surveyed more than 7,000 companies in multiple industries, 89% of the respondents from 130 countries said strengthening, reengineering and improving organizational leadership is a priority.

A good place to start that process is with 4 concepts that have stood the test of time. I believe these leadership principles remain constant—regardless of function, industry, geography, company size, and period in time.

1. Trust. The organization and professionals both see many benefits in a long-term relationship, but it’s difficult to build an enduring bond without trust. Professionals need to trust individual leaders in addition to the organizational infrastructure.

Leaders who display trust bring their authentic selves to work. They do the right thing all the time for their colleagues and themselves, and they lead with action, not words. They are also able to face tough decisions head on.

2. Growth. Leading organizations instill C-suite talent development through the sponsorship of others to build the leadership pipeline. “Leader-led sponsorship” is a long-term strategic imperative to cultivate and develop successors.

Leaders who display growth enthusiastically sponsor others. They provide candid feedback and are aware of how their actions and words influence those around them.

3. Unity. Effective leadership is greatly influenced by the people with whom leaders surround themselves. It’s important for leaders to learn the art and skill of building diverse coalitions to move critical strategies forward with efficiency and consensus. Recent Deloitte research suggests that companies need help in this area. Only 12% of executives surveyed said they understand the way their people work in networks.

Leaders who display unity create a strategic vision and drive relentlessly to that vision. They build coalitions that achieve more than the sum of the parts; they motivate others toward extraordinary results and champion positive relationships at work. The ability to build “personal ecosystems” is critical to a leader’s success within the organization and externally.

4. Difference. Studies show that diversity leads to better business outcomes, yet in many organizations, there is still a lack of diversity among the C-suite and in boardrooms. By changing succession planning practices, organizations can address the lack of diversity and create the optimal mix of backgrounds, skillsets, and ideas.

Leaders who display difference invite variance into the room. They thrive on new and diverse ideas and understand that diversity is not only about background but perspectives, experiences and skills.

Many high-performing organizations have moved from a “mirror-tocracy”—a culture in which everyone looks and thinks alike—to a “mix-tocracy”—a culture in which strength comes from diversity of thought and people. If done correctly, leaders in an organization will fit together like pieces of a puzzle, each offering something unique and valuable.

Organizations that understand the basic tenets of what leadership truly is and value leadership above all else will have better success finding and keeping the best leaders.

Read more:
The 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report



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