15 Traits of Great Leaders

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Today’s post will make the case for leadership development. While much has been written about the traits and characteristics that form great leaders, the truth is that leaders come in many different varieties…there is no one-size-fits-all formula for leadership. That said, all good leaders possess certain core qualities, and great leaders simply develop said core qualities to a higher level than their peers. Put simply, a leader’s shelf life will be equal to their ability to leverage their leadership traits through solid execution, and influencing their constituencies in alignment with the corporate vision with values. If you want to insure longevity and success as a leader, focus on developing your leadership acumen by prioritizing your efforts on the following list of 15 leadership traits: 

  1. Integrity: Always do the right thing regardless of sentiment, and never compromise your core values. If you cannot build trust and engender confidence with your stakeholders you cannot succeed. No amount of talent can overcome illicit, immoral or otherwise ill-advised actions. A leader void of integrity will not survive over the long-haul.

  2. Excellent Decision Making Skills: As a leader you will live or die by the quality of the decisions you make. The practical reality of leadership is that you are often only as good as your last decision. When you’re the leader good decisioning is expected, poor decisioning won’t be tolerated, and great decisioning will set you apart from the masses.

  3. Ability to Focus: If you cannot focus, you cannot perform at the level necessary to remain in leadership for very long. The ability to do nothing more than understand and lock-on to priorities will place you in the top 10% of all leaders.

  4. Leveraging Experience: Inexperience, a lack of maturity, needing to be the center of attention, not recognizing limitations, a lack of judgment, an inferior knowledge base, or any number of other common mistakes made by rookie leaders can cause your house of cards to fall. If you don’t have the experience personally, hire it, contract it, but by all means acquire it. Great leaders surround themselves with tier-one talent, and the best advisors money can buy. They don’t make uniformed or ill-advised decisions in a vacuum.

  5. Command Presence: Great leaders possess a strong presence and bearing. They are unflappable individuals that never let you see them sweat (unless of course it serves a purpose). Everything about how they carry themselves messages that they have a clear vision and are capable of leading in accordance with said vision.

  6. Embracing Change: Great leaders have a strong bias to action. They don’t rest upon past accomplishments, and are always seeking to improve through change and innovation. In today’s fast paced and competitive environment, those leaders who don’t openly embrace change will often be shown the door prior to the expiration of their initial employment contract.

  7. Brand Champions: Great leaders understand branding at every level. They seek to build not only a dominant corporate brand, but also to leverage a strong personal brand. Leaders that are not well branded on a personal basis, or who let their corporate brand fall into decline will not survive.  

  8. Boundless Energy: Great leaders have a boundless amount of energy. They are positive in their outlook, and their attitude is contagious. A low energy leader is not motivating, convincing, or credible.

  9. Subject Matter Expertise: Great leaders have a deep understanding of their subject matter, and a strong orientation toward achievement. Great leaders possess what often appears to be a sixth sense, or an almost instinctive feel for what  needs to occur in order to leverage their knowledge into a competitive advantage.

  10. Talent: Great leaders have a nose for talent…They understand how to recruit, develop and deploy talent focusing on applying the best talent to the best opportunities. They also know when it’s time to make changes, and to cut losses as needed. 

  11. Organizational Acumen: Great leaders know how to engender trust, when and how to share information, and are expert listeners. They develop strong teams an healthy organizational cultures driven to performance by aligned motivations. They understand the power of well thought out, consistent, and clearly articulated vision. They can quickly diagnose whether the team/organization is performing at full potential, delivering on commitments, and whether the team is changing and growing versus just operating.

  12. Curiosity: Great leaders possess a powerful motivation to increase their knowledge base and to convert their learning into actionable initiatives. They question, challenge, confront and are never accepting of the status quo. They listen well and are exceptionally intuitive and observant.

  13. Intellectual Capacity: Great leaders are also great thinkers…both at the strategic and tactical levels. They are quick on their feet, and know how to get to the root of an issue faster than anyone else. I’ve never met a great leader who wasn’t extremely discerning.

  14. Big Thinkers: Regardless of the physical or geographical boundaries of their current role, great CEOs think big and add a zero. Limited thinking results in limited results. Whether global thinking is applied to capital formation, supply-chain issues, business development, strategic partnering, distribution or any number of other areas, those leaders who don’t grasp the importance of thinking globally will not endure. Great leaders are externally oriented, hungry for knowledge of the world, and adept at connecting developments and spotting patterns. 

  15. Never Quit: Great leaders refuse to lose…They have an insatiable appetite for accomplishment and results. While they may reengineer or change direction, they will never lose sight of the end game.

As always, feel free to fill add to the list or fill in any missing items… 

CEO Success…It’s not Random

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Success is not random…CEO Success...It's not RandomCEOs need to realize that neither their success, nor their failure is a random act. CEOs also can rarely lay blame for their victories and losses on anyone other than themselves. Top CEOs have a knack for consistently exhibiting the right combination of skill sets, competencies, leadership aptitude, and decisioning ability. Failed CEOs simply do not. Having success as a CEO is little more than a matter of understanding where and when to apply leverage to highest and best use activities. In today’s post we’re going back to “CEO 101″ to get a bit of a refresher course on things you should already know, but that you most probably fail to apply correctly on a day-to-day basis… 

So, what does it take to become a top CEO? Much more than it did even 5 years ago to be sure. The rapidly changing global landscape, and the evolving complexity of business, makes the job of CEO something that is only well suited for a rare few. For these reasons sustainable success at the C-suite level has become a very elusive thing. With the average tenure of a CEO being less than 4 years, it is critical for executives to understand what it takes to beat the odds. In the review that follows, I’ll examine the characteristics necessary to both achieve and sustain success as a CEO…

The job of CEO is all about managing expectations. Put simply, a CEO’s shelf life will be equal to their ability to align values, vision, and passion with execution. A CEO must be able to focus on deploying the necessary resources, at the right time, to achieve to desired results. By exhibiting strong leadership skills, top CEOs manage talent, performance, change, innovation, influence, rapport, and messaging to consistently drive an enterprise forward regardless of circumstances. If you want to insure longevity as a CEO, work towards developing a high degree of competency in the following areas: 

  1. Integrity: Always do the right thing regardless of peer pressure and/or public sentiment, and above all, never compromise your core values. If you cannot build trust and engender confidence with your stakeholders you cannot succeed. No amount of talent can overcome illegal, immoral, or otherwise ill-advised actions. A leader void of integrity will not survive over the long-haul. (see “Character Matters“)

  2. Excellent Decision Making Skills: As a CEO you will live or die by the quality of the decisions you make. When you’re the CEO good decisioning is expected, poor decisioning won’t be tolerated and great decisioning will set you apart from the masses. (see “Executive Decisioning“)

  3. Ability to Focus: If you cannot focus you cannot perform at the level necessary to remain in the C-suite for very long. The ability to do nothing more than understand and lock-onto priorities will place you in the top 10% of all executives. (see “The Power of Focus“)

  4. Leveraging Experience: Inexperience, a lack of maturity, needing to be the center of attention, not recognizing limitations, a lack of judgment, an inferior knowledge base or any number of other common mistakes made by rookie CEOs can cause your house of cards to fall. If you don’t have the experience personally, hire it, contract it, but by all means acquire it. Great CEOs surround themselves with tier-one talent and the best advisers money can buy. They don’t make uniformed or ill-advised decisions in a vacuum. (see “Young CEOs“)

  5. Command Presence: Great CEOs possess a strong presence and bearing. They are unflappable individuals that never let you see them sweat (unless of course it serves a purpose). Everything from how they carry themselves to how they speak and dress messages that they are in charge. (see “Never Let Them See You Sweat“)

  6. Embracing Change: Great CEOs have a strong bias to action. They don’t rest upon past accomplishments and are always seeking to improve through change and innovation. In today’s fast paced and competitive environment those CEOs who don’t openly embrace change will often be shown the door prior to the expiration of their initial employment contract. (see “Catalyzing Change“)

  7. Brand Champions: Great CEOs understand branding at every level. They seek to build not only a dominant corporate brand, but also a strong personal brand. CEOs that are not well branded on a personal basis or who let their corporate brand fall into decline will not survive. (see “Branding Demystified“)

  8. Boundless Energy: Great CEOs have a boundless amount of energy. They are positive in their outlook, and their attitude is contagious. A low energy CEO is not motivating, convincing, or credible. (Since I don’t yet have a dedicated post on this topic, I guess I’ll need to expand my thinking in the days ahead…)

  9. Business Acumen: Great CEOs have a deep understanding of the business and a strong orientation toward profit. Great CEOs possess what often appears to be a sixth sense or an almost instinctive feel for what the company needs to do to make money and remain competitive. (see “Leadership DNA“)

  10. People Acumen: Great CEOs have a nose for talent…They understand how to recruit, develop and deploy talent focusing on applying the best talent to the best opportunities. They also know when it’s time to make changes and cut losses as needed. (see “Employee Engagement“)

  11. Organizational Acumen: Great CEOs know how to engendering trust, when and how to share information, and are expert listeners. They develop strong and positive corporate cultures driven to performance by aligned motivations. They can quickly diagnose whether the organization is performing at full potential, delivering on commitments, and whether the company is changing and growing versus just operating. (see “Making The Most of Talent“)

  12. Curiosity: Great CEOs possess a powerful motivation to increase their knowledge base and to convert their learning into actionable initiatives. They question, challenge, confront, and are never accepting of the status quo. (see “The Downside of Best Practices“)

  13. Intellectual Capacity: Great CEOs are also great thinkers both at the strategic and tactical levels. They are quick on their feet and know how to get to the root of an issue faster than anyone else. I’ve never met a great CEO who wasn’t extremely discerning. (see “Critical Thinking“)

  14. Global Mindset: Regardless of the geographical boundaries of the current business model great CEOs think globally. Limited thinking results in limited results. Whether global thinking is applied to capital formation, supply-chain issues, business development, strategic partnering, distribution or any number of other areas those CEOs who don’t grasp the importance of thinking globally will not endure. Great CEOs are externally oriented, hungry for knowledge of the world and adept at connecting developments and spotting patterns. (see “The Impact of Globalization“)

  15. Never Quit: Great CEOs refuse to lose…They have an insatiable appetite for accomplishment and results and while they may reengineer or change direction they will never lose sight of the end game. (see “Play To Win“)

Employer’s Rights vs. Employee’s Privacy

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

True privacy is a thing of the past...

The subject matter surrounding an employer’s right to information vs. an employee’s right to privacy seems to be an ever proliferating area of complexity and contention. With the burgeoning use of social media sites like, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, etc., an employee’s private life and opinions are becoming ever more public in nature. Does a private opinion expressed in a personal blog have anything to do with your professional life? What about a video that’s uploaded to the web which captures you participating in some form of over-enthusiastic celebration? The text that follows will not delve into a discussion on the legalities of the issue, but rather my opinions based upon personal experience and what I believe to be a common sense approach to the topic at hand.

During my career I have been lucky enough to be both employer and employee, and regardless of which side of the table I have sat on, my opinion has never wavered with regard to the issue of employee’s rights. It is this author’s opinion that employment is a privilege and not a right. A job is something an employee has to compete for to secure, as well as perform up to certain expectations to retain. It is effort expended on the employee’s behalf in return for remuneration and the privilege of remaining employed. A job is not something to be viewed as a right of entitlement.

So why does an employer need to have so much access to the personal information of its employees? The answer is really quite simple…An employee is a direct representative of the company, and his/her actions (either on or off the job) are a direct reflection on the employer’s brand, reputation, and image in the marketplace. Companies are in reality most frequently judged upon the quality, integrity, and character of their employees.

Unless the employer crosses a clear legal boundary, all is fair in the employer’s pursuit of the protection of the corporate brand. In my book, requiring drug tests, recording phone conversations, monitoring e-mail, web browsing habits, social media activity, and information stored on company computers are perfectly acceptable measures for an employer to take in safeguarding the reputation and security of the enterprise.

All reputable companies have employee handbooks, job descriptions and/or employment agreements that the employee is asked to read and sign prior to commencing work for the employer. These documents clearly outline company practices, procedures and processes. All employees should have very clear visibility with respect to company expectations before they ever show-up for their first day of work.  Moreover, there are normally human resources intake interviews and initial training periods that go over company policies in greater detail. Employees are normally well informed as to company practices, and have the ability to make an informed decision with respect to whether or not they desire to comply with said policies for the compensation being offered in return.

The bottom line in my opinion is that if an employee conducts themselves properly, then they should have nothing to fear with regard to being closely monitored. In fact, close scrutiny on the employer’s part may well be the invisible boundary that keeps an employee from doing something uncharacteristically wrong in a moment of chaos or weakness.

The above comments standing on their own merit, people are only people, and will from time-to-time fall prey to human nature. I do believe that good employer’s weigh all sides of issues before rendering decisions. An employee’s full disclosure of past negative history, or immediate acceptance of wrong doing won’t always guarantee a favorable outcome, but it will in fact demonstrate contrition and understanding of the need for accountability while insuring that the employer had the opportunity to know all relevant facts.

Lastly, I’ve written often on the benefits of values based hiring…if as an employer you seek out employees whose values and priorities are in alignment with the corporate values and vision, you will have fewer conflicts to resolve and disputes to arbitrate.

Simply put, if as a potential employee you are not willing to play by the employer’s rules then don’t take the job.