I was asked today in an interview what are the top one or two things that makes a great leader. I paused and thought about the question. It certainly is not a simple one to address. From my perspective “the right leadership for the moment” is the most critical. In a turnaround you need decisiveness. In a talent rich environment you need softer skills and so on. There is not a one solution fits all model.
However, regardless of the situation that leadership in the moment calls for the top two traits I look for in a leader are “loyalty” followed closely by “heart”. Both are hard to measure but both are essential.
What I mean by loyalty is that you can have all the talent in the world, an abundance of smarts and a work ethic second to none but if you are not innately loyal then you can not be counted on. In business things are not always plain sailing and the waters get rocky. In those times you don’t just build character but prove you have character. Loyalty is at the foundation of character. Surround yourself with loyal people. Not “yes” people, loyal people who will push back, voice their opinions but will have your back when the adversity arrives.
Secondly, seek out people with heart. To me, heart, is a combination of courage and caring. You have to be fearless but you also have to do things with respect and care. To me you to have the heart of a lion but be gentle when needed to not merely stampede others.
The combination of heart and loyalty married with a command of the functional competencies required in the role will set you apart and set you up for monumental success.