The other weekend someone tweeted the "10 things to look for in a Leader" as listed by the brilliant David Ogilvy (NB He's always quoted as the 'Father of Advertising', usually these monikers are hyperbole but not in his case. Read anything by him and anything about him !) .
It was refreshing to re-read the qualities and agree with them again. Here they are;
1. High standards of personal ethics.
2. Big people, without pettiness.
3. Guts under pressure, resilience in defeat.
4. Brilliant brains - not self plodders.
5. A capacity for work and midnight oil.
6. Charisma - charm and persuasiveness.
7. A streak of unorthodoxy - creative innovators.
8. The courage to make tough decisions.
9. Inspiring enthusiasts - with thrust and gusto.
10. A sense of humor.
I couldn't help but reflect back on my corporate and client career and do a spot of mental scoring. I've been blessed to work with a lot of leaders in the 7,8,9 and even the 10 category.
I've also had the misfortune to experience a couple under 5 and one who would probably muster 2 at best.
Putting aside Ogilvy's criteria I assess a leader on the basis of "soft / hard" skills. Do they have the emotional intelligence to lead and do they have the technical skills to manage. ?
That results in four combinations;
- high emotional intelligence, great technical ability ++ (an exceptional leader)
- low emotional intelligence, great technical ability -+ (a great leader with the right team)
- high emotional intelligence, low technical ability +- (a great leader with the right team)
- low emotional intelligence. low technical ability -- (will always fail as a leader)
It's simplistic but I think it's a quick way of assessing a leader.
Ideally you want both characteristics but you can manage with just one of them in the right environment. Sheer brilliance or an ability to inspire a team makes up for a lot.
It's always surprising when that fourth (fatal) combination slips through the net and ends up in a leadership role. Usually that low emotional intelligence masks their ability to see that they are just not up to the job - a lot of self-belief / self-preservation masks them from reality. Under those circumstances you can only hope that the organisation will prevail. Usually it does. Eventually.