I conducted a survey of 541 business leaders*, executives and employees with the question, “Which do you believe is the most important today for successful leaders?” The options I provided were “Courage, Trustworthiness, Openness to new ideas, Listening to followers, Personal communication skills.” Granted, these are limited options, but I thought it would be worth taking a quick look at some of the leadership traits often considered important.
The results of the poll can be found on LinkedIn. Forty percent of the respondents said “Trustworthiness” was the most important characteristic. If you look at the breakdown of the responses, this answer was strongest amongst the older leaders (the youngest identified “Openness to New Ideas”) and was strongest (go figure) in those who answered from the finance industry.
What might this tell us? I believe, as I have stated before, that the greatest way for leaders to help us as followers out of the current morass and “freeze” that we seem to be in is to give us confidence and hope. This is not done through refusing to make hard decisions (ex. debt limit debate) or misrepresenting information in order to make shareholders happy (ex. Goldman Sachs and darn near everybody else apparently.)
This also does not have to be done at a macroeconomic scale to make a difference.
Your employees and followers want to depend on you in times like this to be a source of stability. If you are in a leadership position, you should know that your credibility is damaged to some degree every time another leader is shown to have violated our trust. For leaders going forward, greater transparency and a deliberate effort to reassure those who look to you for leadership will be paramount to your success. The Fortune 100 CEO is not the leader we care about anyway…it is the leader that touches our lives on a daily basis that matters most to us. And if that’s you, you can make a difference in a big way through your efforts at bringing stability and confidence through your own trustworthy behavior.
*As the statisticians of the world start to pick up their swords, I know there are some major issues with the poll. First, it’s only 541 people. Second, I limited the options. I wasn’t trying to do stem cell research, I was just asking a question to see how people would respond. So there.