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7 Traits of Great Leaders - Part 2

Updated: Sep 25, 2018

Original publication, Network Magazine Spring 2017 Issue of Network Magazine

In the last issue of Network Magazine (Winter 2017), I introduced the first three of seven traits that make great leaders, as identified by Caliper Corporation, a company I have worked with since 1998.  They are a renowned global leadership assessment company with over 50 years in business, working with over 28,000 companies, and assessing over 2 million professionals.  Leadership is truly a blend of one’s DNA and learned skills.  In this article, I want to continue to unpack the personality traits from one’s DNA that significantly determine the ability to be a great leader.  In the last article, we talked about the first three personality traits:

  1. Assertiveness

  2. Ego Drive

  3. Ego Strength [Resilience]

This issue I will unpack the remaining four:

  1. Risk-Taking

  2. Idea Orientation

  3. Urgency

  4. Empathy

4. RISK-TAKING

According to Caliper, “people who are unwilling to take risks will tend to stick to the ‘tried and true’ and, as a result, may have difficulty making decisions or taking action when faced with unfamiliar circumstances.  On the other hand, individuals who are strong risk takers but do not exhibit sufficient responsibility, control, intelligence, and flexibility have the potential for making mistakes.”


Risk-Taking is an important trait for great leaders, but of the seven traits, it requires an extremely healthy balance.  Great leaders take calculated risks after having collected enough data and information to make an intelligent risk.  Often, exceptional results and success follow good Risk-Takings decisions directed by leaders.  Reckless risks, on the contrary, can end in disaster.  If you read the biography of any great leader, you will find their life stories are full of taking risks, like Apple Inc. and the great Steve Jobs, “Let’s make a dent in the universe.”, or Dallas Cowboy Coach Jimmy Johnson, “Do you want to be safe and good, or do you want to take a chance and be great?”


5. IDEA ORIENTATION [INNOVATIVE]

Caliper defines Idea Orientation as “one with a strong orientation toward creative problem solving, idea generation and concept development, less likely to rely on practical or concrete solutions.”  Without innovation of new products, services, processes and methods, a company will not survive, as reinforced by Albert Einstein, “You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that caused the problem in the first place.”  Leaders must therefore innovate and foster a culture of innovation amongst the organization to endure, grow and beat a sea of competitors.


Great leaders have abilities to see into the future and harness the organization to help build that future.  If a leader is not gifted in this area, they will want to learn how to say “no” to the tried-and-true, and “yes” to surrounding themselves with innovators.


6. URGENCY

Caliper defines Urgency as “an inner-directed and focused need to get things done.  Those overly urgent can become impatience or unrealistic with expectations, while those with little urgency tend to be patient and potentially compliant.”  The stronger version of this trait is what drives leaders to act and make things happen.


There are a variety of motives (good and bad) that drive a leader’s urgency.  Therefore, leaders who possess this trait need to be careful to make sure their motives are communicated to their team.  If not, the urgent pace of implementation can cause discord and misunderstanding, and leave a team temporarily derailed, thus frustrating the Urgent leader even more.  One of my favorite quotes is by George S. Patton, Jr., “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”  This attitude and discipline ring true to Urgent leaders, the great one’s turn analysis into action.


7. EMPATHY

Caliper defines Empathy as, “to accurately and objectively perceive another person’s feelings without necessarily agreeing with them.  The ability to obtain important feedback enables a leader to appropriately adjust his or her behavior to deal effectively with other people.”


Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard was a legendary empathetic leader, who liked to roll up his sleeves and inspire engineers by walking the floors and listening to their concerns.  This approach allowed him to build trust and confidence with his employees creating an amazing foundation for what is now 2016’s #20 on the Fortune 500.  Empathy is a form of EQ (emotional intelligence), so the good news is it’s the easiest learned attribute of the seven.


The Caliper Leadership Assessment tool is valuable for individual leadership awareness, or for developing entire leadership teams. 


To learn more about Caliper, you can contact David Olson, President of Walton Consulting, Inc., CEO Coach on business strategy, corporate culture and leadership.  Learn more at www.WaltonConsulting.com.

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