When thinking about the core attributes of a successful leader, it is tempting to make a huge list that is essentially unrealistic and costly to either develop or recruit for. More prudent to focus on the vital few which will serve to ignite and fuel the growth of the organization.

First is Intelligence. There is a growing trend the weighted value of emotional intelligence and incorporating it into the competency framework of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management.

The second is Independent Thinking. This is absolutely vital. Throughout the enterprise, there are people who will want to persuade or befriend you. Critical to be very independent in how you gather information and make decisions.

The third is Courage. It takes intestinal fortitude to lead. It takes guts to put a stake in the ground about where your company is going, selecting and developing a leadership team, and deciding on what it is that you are not going to do.

The fourth is Empathy. Imagine the benefits for being attuned to the feelings of those we must inspire, being able to handle disagreements that do not escalate and intently listening without thinking about what you want to convey. As one of my old bosses put it, “Stress makes people stupid”.

It is important to point out that one of the most common mistakes is allowing knowledge and experience to be a proxy for intelligence. You can certainly change whether or not someone uses a more strategic approach, you can influence their decision making process and you can mitigate against thinking styles or behavioral styles, however you cannot put into the noggin what the creator did not. That is not a development need and should never be addressed as such.