What Leaders Look for in Future Leaders, Besides Integrity!

Last month I shared why integrity still matters today in hiring leaders and how to recognize if a candidate has it. Knowing that integrity is essential, what else is important for success today?

I shared Warren Buffet’s top three: integrity, intellect and energy (which he describes as taking initiative). Here are some others.

Courage. One trait that I look for that ties to energy and initiative is courage. Leaders all want future talent who demonstrate initiative and who are proactive – those who come to the table with new ideas on a regular basis. When the ideas support existing strategy, and have broad-based support, it’s easy for leaders and future leaders to proceed. It’s much harder, however, for leaders to take initiative and push forward ideas that are untried, unproven or just plain unpopular. Courage is therefore a necessary leadership trait in addition to energy/initiative – having the courage to make unpopular decisions or push new ideas forward even when there is a chance they could fail.  Taking calculated risks is part of a leader’s role and courage is needed to do just that.

Two additional traits that I coach on regularly and believe now play an even larger role in the sustainable success of leaders today are the ability to self-manage and to have self-care.

Self-management. The speed in which today’s world moves, along with the speed in which we communicate poses new challenges for leaders. Leaders need to be adept at managing themselves – to be able to prioritize, focus, and balance during very hectic, fast-changing environments. While leaders used to have more time to plan and control their environments and rely on good administrative assistance, now environments change quickly and leaders need to be able to make changes on the fly mostly by themselves.  Leaders who can organize themselves quickly, stay on top of things and maintain focus amidst the noise and distraction are in top demand.

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Self-care. While this can be included as a component of self-management, self-care also stands on its own.  I define it as the discipline of being able to set personal and professional boundaries and follow a disciplined approach to work-life balance. Every leader’s balance will look different. Some leaders gain energy from more work, more new ideas or more people, while others need to create space to think, digest, and gain perspective to be the best leader they can be. Each leader’s personal life is also different with varying family, personal and community commitments. Therefore, there is no hard and fast rule to what makes sense – it is an individual assessment and discipline. However, the acceptance that the self exists and has importance outside the work environment is at the center of this practice. Leaders cannot give what they don’t have. Full stop. If leaders do not attend to themselves, care for themselves and allow others to do the same, something else will give way. Creating a sustainable leadership self-care practice is about balance and discipline.

Learning agility. One last thought on leadership traits for success in today’s world: It’s more important than ever for leaders to stay open to new ideas, remain curious and demonstrate personal learning agility. As businesses face disruption from competitors, technology and with the rise of artificial intelligence, many organizations are deliberately disrupting themselves to stay ahead. Leading today therefore requires keeping a keen ear to the ground, engaging teams for their input, staying open, and creating learning organizations where innovation is welcomed and encouraged and this is best achieved by leaders who demonstrate agility in learning themselves.

For other thoughts on leadership, visit my blog post on LinkedIn.


Sandra Hokansson

Sandra Hokansson
Sandi Hokansson is a certified executive-level coach and principal of SoundLeadership. Reach her at sandi (at) soundleadership (dot) ca.

Sandra Hokansson

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