Key Ingredients for Strong Leaders

This is one of my favorite times of the year. And it has nothing to do with perfect weather, spring training baseball or the sweet scent of citrus blossoms in the air.

It has to do with leadership.

This is the season when we go about identifying those who will make up Class No. 12 of our Forty Under Forty program and the 5th edition of our Most Admired Leaders project. The former identifies 40 up and coming leaders. The latter aims at 25 leaders of all ages, including a lifetime achievement honor.

For both, getting there is a journey full of inspiration. We’re on track to receive well over 250 nominations for the Forty program, and judging soon will commence. Reading the nominations every year is a humbling experience and a reassuring one. All these years are proof that the leadership pipeline is full. And we’ve watched many of our young honorees grow to become among the finest leaders in the Valley today.

And the Most Admired group is much the same. Their combined impact and good work has made life and business in the Valley among the best.

What I’ve learned through these programs are the common values these groups share.

Good leaders:

  • Are genuine. And the best of them treat everyone the same – whether it’s their chairman of the board or the guard in the office lobby. And sincere. When they ask you a question you know they are actually listening to your reply.

  • Keep egos in check. Everyone has an ego. But the best leaders keep their egos in check. There’s a fine line between confidence and bravado and the leaders who command the most followers control their egos.

  • Know trust is a two-way street. Many superiors will tell subordinates how they must earn the trust from those above them. That’s true. But good leaders know it’s equally important that they earn the trust of those who follow them.

  • Are quick to give credit and slow to accept it. It’s the people around them that allow them to achieve great things. And when they say they’re nothing without their support crew, you know they mean it. They respect those around them. And they say thank you. A lot.

  • Have drive and pursue their goals with speed and endurance. But they know when to let up a bit, too, so they don’t reach burnout – for them or their teams.

  • Have a sense of humor. It make them real, makes them approachable. And it helps them break tension and stress, which are natural byproducts of successful enterprises.

There are other good traits, too. But these are the ones that resonate with me. And I know they’ll be common for those who are chosen for both of the programs again this year. It’s reassuring to see them in abundance when we stop to pay attention to the good leaders among us.

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