An interesting piece of feedback arrived after my last blog, The “Leadership Personality.” A correspondent felt that my view was a “bit too relativistic,” that “prosocial, humble, and honest are better than narcissistic and disagreeable in my book- even if their financial results are better.” Frankly, I couldn’t agree more, and the reader may have viewed my post as out of context with what I’ve written before. It raises some questions that should be addressed, however. 

My view that adaptability is perhaps the foundational personality quality of leadership success is, I think, still valid and does not assume that any behavior is acceptable as long as you get short-term results. Adaptability is a long-term strategy, by which I mean that a leader should be adapting to their environment in ways that will work over the long term, not just in the moment. A leader can browbeat subordinates into submission and get better financial results over the short-term, but he or she will quickly lose effectiveness by demotivating the workforce and driving away the good people who can get jobs elsewhere. Some qualities do work better over the long-term, and are thus more adaptive; others may work work well in the short-term but be less adaptive.

So what personality qualities should a leader strive for in order to be more successful? Here are a few:

Again, the qualities that go into what it takes to be a good leader are many, and often circumstance driven. Some of those qualities are non-negotiable and this list, though incomplete, is a good place to start.

*See McClelland and Burnam’s Harvard Business Review article “Power is the Great Motivator” or McClelland’s book, “Power: The Inner Experience.”

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