Primary Leadership Objective

The primary objective of leadership is to achieve sustainable organizational success by creating a culture where employees are engaged and motivated to contribute. According to CEO Challenge 2015, an annual survey of CEO’s conducted by The Conference Board, CEO’s believe that sustainable business results are best achieved through a “longer term focus on capacity-building and the development of strong cultures of innovation, engagement and accountability within their organizations”. The Conference Board’s report also states “While CEOs see the criticality of Human Capital to long-term success, they are also focused on an enterprise-wide integrated approach in their growth strategies that equally values engagement, innovation and customer-centricity, along with excellence in execution.”¹

Leadership Behaviors which Engage & Motivate

The results of CEO Challenge 2015 clearly indicate that issues related to achieving employee engagement and meeting/exceeding customer expectations are at the top of the list of business concerns identified by CEOs worldwide. So, what kinds of leadership behaviors are instrumental in creating a culture where employees are “engaged and motivated to contribute”?¹ They are the behaviors which transform the relationship between management and employees enabling alignment, involvement, open & two-way communication, collaborative problem-solving & learning, innovation and high-performance. These same behaviors, at a fundamental level, are integral to establishing an organizational culture of honesty, trust, appreciation, respect and enthusiasm without which high-performance is not possible.

4 Key Leadership Insights

“First, leadership as management is not enough. Second, transformational leadership rests on collaboration and shared purpose, difficult to accomplish in more resistant environments (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). Third, leaders need to be the innovation they wish to create, and support change: “start with serious self-reflection, understand the change context, and balance passion for change with enlightened self-interest” (Cleveland-Innes, Emes, & Ellard, 2001, p. 25). While striving to emulate great leaders of the past, remember to serve those who follow as well as, if not better than, they serve. Finally, and perhaps above all, remember that in all its forms, leadership without ongoing personal transformation is little more than management.” (IRR ODL, Leadership Notes, Oct. 2012)

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) 18th Annual CEO Survey

The findings of the PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) 18th Annual CEO Survey, just released last month, underscores the need for “soft-Skills” in corporate leadership and begins to define what they are. “Above all though, perhaps the quality CEOs most need to master is humility. By being humble while leading, a CEO will be able to listen and learn from the team they have built around them; they’ll be able to take maximum advantage of the diversity they are cultivating and they’ll be receptive to the insights they gain from new collaborations. Most important, this humility will give CEOs the confidence to pass on what they have learnt to the next generation of leaders.”²

The Leader who “Gets-it”

The leader who “gets-it” demonstrates skills in their relationships with people by treating them “… as a ‘whole’ individual rather than as an employee, and considers the individual’s talents and levels of knowledge to decide what suits him or her to reach higher levels of attainment.”³ This kind of leader is a role model for all to emulate through living the organization’s values and collaboratively accomplishing company objectives. Examples of their behaviors include:³

  • listening to each follower’s needs and concerns
  • expressing words of thanks or praise as a means of motivation
  • making public recognition of achievements and initiatives
  • making private notes of congratulations to boost self confidence
  • ensuring fair workload distribution
  • undertaking individualized career counseling and mentoring

John Kotter wrote about this engaging style of leadership in the Harvard Business Review …“Motivation and inspiration energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms, but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, and feeling of control over one’s life, and the ability to live up to one’s ideals.⁴

Take a look in the mirror

An article in the McKinsey Quarterly Newsletter advises leaders to be introspective in order to understand their “modes of operating” as “many people aren’t aware that the choices they make are extensions of the reality that operates in their hearts and minds”. The article goes on to state that “…it’s crucial that those who seek to lead powerfully and effectively look at their internal experiences, precisely because they direct how you take action, whether you know it or not. Taking accountability as a leader today includes understanding your motivations and other inner drives”.⁵

7 Best Traits of a Leader

I recently read a blog post on leadership which identified 7 best traits of a leader. I’m not sure there is an absolute list of best traits but if there were I believe these would be near the top. I listed these traits below along with my thoughts on how they are best defined.⁶


They don’t have a guard up and let people know who they really are; they share their vision, expectations, agendas, strengths and the things they may not be so good at; their honest, forthright, respectful and don’t put a ‘spin’ on things.


They’re aware of the deeper parts of their personality, what drives their behavior, their behavioral patterns and the affect their behaviors have on others.


They are modest, don’t brag or exaggerate, acknowledge and appreciate what others bring to the table and know they have strengths as well as things they need to work on just like we all do.


They have empathy for others when they stumble as they realize we all stumble from time-to-time; when there’s a choice between being kind and right, they choose to be kind.


They respond (vs. react) to situations with their knowledge and skills along with the wisdom they’ve gained through life’s experiences; they are graceful with people allowing them the time and space they need.


They are accountable for their actions and what they’ve agreed to; they claim 100% responsibility for what they did or didn’t do in a given situation even when others have a stake as well; they don’t ‘pass-the-buck’.


They competently use their positional power in the best interests of the company; they inspire, engage and align people to achieve company objectives; they continuously improve the organization to meet the challenges of tomorrow.


In closing, corporate leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping an engaged and high-performing business culture. Leaders who are role models of the values and behaviors which advance the culture will realize the results not only today but for years to come.


  1. The Conference Board CEO Challenge 2015 Survey Report; Feb., 2015
  2. PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) 18th Annual CEO Survey Report; Jan., 2015
  3. Harvard Business Review on Leadership; “Managers and leaders: Are they different?”; Zaleznik; 1992
  4. Harvard Business Review; “What leaders really do”; Kotter; Dec., 2001
  5. McKinsey Quarterly Newsletter; “Change leader change thyself”; Boaz & Fox; Mar., 2014
  6. Blog; Best Traits of a Good Leader; ElKartoum; Nov., 2014