The definition of a leader has changed considerably over the past two decades. Before he or she was the easy to spot person the stage or at the front of the troops surrounded by a small group of confidantes, barking out orders to be followed to the letter. Today however, the leader is much more difficult to spot. Industry leaders like Mark Stiffler is just as likely to be sitting amongst the troops as standing in front of them and taking orders rather than giving them. With such a change, we need to reexamine the qualities that equate to a good leader.
If you asked most businesspeople the one quality they look for most in business, they would say integrity, although in reality it is not that often sought and definitely rarely often demanded.
The simple reason why is because people will look the other way in terms of integrity if things like profits are brought into the conversation. No doubt, business always involves judgment calls and some sit in the grey areas, making it difficult to always be sure which decision supports an ethical approach. And working with the dynamic of having to navigate the many tugs and pulls and demands of a business is difficult, particularly in today’s world of constant distraction and enticement.
Added to this, is the reality that decisions made, frequently have unintended consequences that can take things down a path that causes more hard judgments to be made. With all of this said however, the CEO has the obligation to do his or her best to get on ad stay on the narrow path of integrity. This should be done at the expense of some profits because its positive effects on the business and work environment cannot be overstated.
A leader’s actions have a trickle-down effect on the entire culture of the organization. When the leader acts with integrity, the ground rules and behaviors are set for everyone in the organization. Everyone has a sure sense of what is allowed and not and there is no question about what is appropriate. In business one key quality a leader always wants is to know what his troops will do when things get tough, integrity
Although we humans all come from the same type of DNA, and have the same feelings and moods, we do not all possess the ability to empathize with one another to the same degree. Business today demands that a leader have and hone this quality because today’s business environment places stakeholders so much closer than in the past.
Connecting with a host of diverse, demanding, and sometimes unpredictable populations is an inescapable reality it today’s networked world. And making these connections provides the foundation for unlocking value in an infinite variety of ways, with customers, colleagues, subordinates, strategic partners, and investors.
For those leaders who can truly understand the needs and feelings of others, they gain an ability to position their company and its products and services much more properly. A leader must have cognitive empathy, which is the ability to understand what another individual is thinking emotional empathy, which is the ability to understand how another person is feeling. Combined, these both create a leader who is able to truly identify with the stakeholders.