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The Single Attribute Every Great Leader Must Have


The Single Attribute Every Great Leader Must Have

Much of my career has been spent helping people discover what great leadership is.

Current research points to checklists of attributes and competencies that leaders should possess in order to be the perfect leader – attributes such as being visionary, authentic, empathetic, a great communicator, adaptable, strategic, etc. The list goes on and on. I call this the “perfectionist mindset.” But is there really such a thing as a perfect leader, and is it realistic that we should demand that our leaders be good at all these things? 

My answer is simply, no. The world of work has changed, and our default way of operating to respond to change is to add to the growing list of things to do or be. No wonder an increasing number of leaders feel overworked and exhausted. What we should be doing is re-evaluating how we show up to anticipate what kind of leadership this world needs now and in the future, one that is fundamentally different than how leadership has been experienced in the past. 

We all know bad leadership when we see it. But, what then, is good leadership?

Amidst all the noise, there is one critical attribute that every leader in the modern day era should possess – curiosity.

  1. Leaders who are curious about themselves build self-awareness and self-understanding. They are willing to inquire within and reflect on their own patterns and behaviours. This allows them to let go of their ego and set ways of doing and thinking. Curious leaders know that they don’t have all the answers, nor should they try.

  2. Leaders who are curious about others build meaningful relationships and shared understanding. This fuels trust and collaboration. Simply by asking questions and listening to the response, leaders can start to understand others who may be different to themselves and leverage this diversity as the not so best kept secret for creativity. 

  3. Leaders who are curious about their environment are more responsive to change. They are constantly reading, talking to competitors, customers, and partners, and seeking external opinions and perspectives. This allows them to not only respond to the market, but also anticipate market needs, the key to innovation. 

Related: Humanistic Leadership: a New Era of Leadership Has Begun

If we can build curiosity within our leaders, a solid foundation for many other attributes to flourish will naturally emerge, and all leadership development efforts should be focused on helping leaders build this one attribute. It is an invitation to let go of the “perfectionist mindset” and seek progress in ourselves first and foremost. Once we know ourselves, then an evolved type of leadership can emerge – authentic leadership. 

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