Looking for a new role? What qualities do you look for in a leader?

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I have been fortunate to work with some great leaders, and those experiences have helped me to grow both as a leader and a contributor. If you’re on the move and hunting for a new job, it’s critical to assess the leadership of the organization you’re interviewing with. Think about your own experiences and reflect on what made them good or bad, and apply those lessons to future job selections. I’ve found that the following leadership qualities were consistently present when teams experienced success.

  • Vision A leader is skilled at seeing the desired outcome in their mind. They know the importance of aligning a team around a vision. They can easily to speak to the high level purpose and direction, and are skilled at drawing everyone back to the big picture. Vision is the hardest skill to develop, and also the hardest to find in a leader. Executing a vision is an art in the sense that there is no right or wrong path to take, just options leading to an outcome. A visionary can see the desired end state in the mind’s eye, and uses this to navigate the business to a successful outcome.
  • Humility It takes humility to be open to failure, and to create an environment where real value is gained from failure. Humility is a form of self-awareness, the kind that builds trust and allows a team to operate more transparently. But why does this matter for the business? It takes humility to place team members in the spotlight to be recognized for their contributions. Creating an environment where individuals can achieve career goals while driving the business forward is critical for long term business health. Conversely, a lack of humility will create a culture of risk aversion which limits the pace of innovation and limits the potential of the business.
  • Backbone Leaders demonstrate backbone by taking a difficult position in order to achieve a fair and reasonable outcome. This can manifest during business and project planning, where it takes backbone to defend a long term vision over short term pain. Backbone isn’t just a strong personal opinion, it’s rooted in data and personal experience, and backed by a compelling thesis. The need for showing Backbone also arises during performance reviews. Leaders must compete for limited promotion and performance benefits for their people, and backbone is required to acheive a fair outcome.
  • Strategy Strategic thinkers know how to recognize opportunity on multiple levels. The desire to strategize is relentless and ever present. This applies to business opportunities which may lead to exponential growth or faster innovation cycles. And it also applies to personal development where it’s critical to always have a growth strategy. These types of leaders tend to promote from within on a more frequent basis, because the people under their leadership have an opportunity to demonstrate the competencies required to advance to the next level. Conversley, a leader who does not apply strategic thinking to personal performance tends to experience higher rates of turn-over and reduced output.

What do you think? What behaviors do you look for? How would you determine if the leader you’re interviewing has the right mix of behaviors? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear other people’s experiences.

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