New York Times “Corner Office” columnist and best-selling author Adam Bryant has interviewed hundreds of CEOs for his books on leadership. His first book, The Corner Office; Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, explores the essential qualities shared by many CEOs that ultimately landed them in the corner office. Here, my take on three of those qualities:
Passionate Curiosity Bryant cites writer and film critic Nell Minow’s description of passionate curiosity as “the infectious sense of fascination that some people have with everything around them.” Great leaders know they don’t have all the answers but express a deep sense of engagement with the world and a questioning mind. A leader who passionately seeks answers and solutions galvanizes the collective energy of their team members, which then moves the organization in new directions.
Battle-Hardened Confidence Every leader has faced adversity in his or her career, and most likely has lost a battle or two. Over the course of their careers, leaders have learned how to face down adversity and express a quiet confidence in their capabilities. Another way of thinking about this is confident leaders never settle for the status quo, insist on independent thinking,
Team Smarts Bryant calls team smarts the organizational version of “street smarts.” Leaders have good antennae for meeting dynamics, use “peripheral vision,” a sense for how to bring people together, and know how to use the “soft levers of power.” I would add knowing how to recruit well, build a team, manage a team, and instill working well together are key characteristics of great leaders.
Next discussion: A simple mindset, fearlessness, and Adam Bryant’s best career planning tip.