I was talking to a friend the other day. I count him as an excellent leader. He was one of the best commanders I served with. Inevitably, every time we get together, the conversation turns to our views on leadership at some point. One thing we always agree on is that the Army is a people-centric organization. When you take care of people, the mission will get accomplished.
He shared with me an interesting perspective. He said as he reflects on excellent leaders he has had throughout his career in the military they all share three qualities. These qualities seem to be a recipe for leading successfully. Leading successfully is all about influencing a team to effectively and efficiently achieve objectives, while in the process making the people around you better for the experience.
The three qualities he identified were attitude, work ethic, and personality. After thinking about what he said, I tweaked these three qualities a bit. I believe there are four qualities necessary to make a person a successful leader: attitude, work ethic, relationship building, and character.
A leader must have an optimistic attitude and one that is filled with positive energy. Optimism is not about thinking everything is great all the time. Sometimes significant challenges and setbacks come our way. By being optimistic, I mean that a leader must believe tomorrow is going to be better than today. A leader must provide hope for the future.
A good work ethic is important. To achieve anything worthwhile, one must be prepared to hustle and work hard. To a lazy person, a week has seven tomorrows. To a hustler, a week has seven todays.
Some experts have said that relationship building is the new currency. Success depends on the relationships we develop. The world runs on teamwork and the ability to collaborate. Even someone running a company in which they are the only employee must build relationships with others to be successful. A good leader must develop relationships with those they lead, those they follow, and the many other stakeholders they have around them. Having highly developed emotional intelligence and communication skills are both key to developing relationships.
Character is foundational to leadership. Integrity and personal courage are essential, and leaders must make decisions in accordance with these values in order to develop a trustworthy reputation. If you cannot be trusted you cannot lead effectively, especially when your organization hits challenging times.
The four qualities of attitude, work ethic, relationship building, and character are essential for military leaders to possess whether they be commissioned officers, warrant officers, or non-commissioned officers. Leading is a people business. You must be able to show the people you lead that you care about them. Leaders must build relationships in order to get things done and at the end of the day leading is about effectively accomplishing the mission and hopefully making the people you lead better for the experience.
Successful leadership equates to attitude + work ethic + relationship building + character.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. John L. Gronski is the author of “Iron-Sharpened Leadership.” He is the CEO of Leader Grove, LLC, a leadership consulting and training company.Read comments