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This week’s focus: The business world is moving so rapidly that leaders must be ready to make rapid decisions, often on partial information, to change and even destroy successful initiatives and business models in order to be even more successful in the future, and to work with diverse teams and customers to create new, innovative solutions on the back of a series of rapid, low-cost prototypes.

But what are the critical leadership skills and characteristics that can deliver these results? In my experience, the real trait at the heart of successful leadership is a healthy level of self-esteem and self-confidence. This allows the best CEOs to demonstrate these five behaviours:

  • The desire to follow their passions and to have the ability to stand out from the crowd, even when it’s not a popular place to be;
  • An ability to be bold enough to make big decisions, but sufficiently self-aware to also seek help, support and challenge from others;
  • A willingness to experiment and an appreciation of the need to fail – both fearlessly and rapidly – in pursuit of a bigger goal;
  • The skill to engage others and enable their managers and teams to deliver and take the credit for success, rather than needing to take all the glory themselves; and
  • A knack of looking for simple, customer-driven and common-sense solutions that can be deliver rapid results, instead of relying on the latest, often overly-complex, management ideas and fads.

An absence of genuine self-esteem means that you can be overwhelmed by events, not knowing which way to turn, while excessive self-esteem that turns into hubris and smugness – the belief that you know everything and have nothing left to learn – can lead you take poor investment and resourcing decisions.

Contrary to popular views of the autocratic, arrogant boss, I’ve found that most leaders need to increase, not rein in, their level of self-esteem. That means you should be finding ways to put yourself first, to appreciate your strengths and recognise you’ll never be perfect, to acquire, develop and apply new skills continuously, and to find the personal emotional support network you need to maintain perspective and build resilience.

What steps are you taking to ensure that you develop and maintain the healthy levels of self-esteem that will enable you to maximise your leadership effectiveness?

Off The Record: Leaders Of The Free World by Elbow

But the leaders of the free world

Are just little boys throwing stones

And it’s easy to ignore

Till they’re knocking on the doors of your homes

© Stuart Cross 2016. All rights reserved.