What is the single most important skill that crucial skill that leaders of the future will really need?
This is the kind of question that has a million answers, but it's also one that is pretty interesting to dig into because any answer to it reveals not only what the single important leadership skill might be, but also a great deal about the overall philosophy, outlook, and world view of the person answering it.
"Must have" leadership traits you don't often hear about
Six years ago this month, the Harvard Business School asked a number of leadership experts this question, and they got a number of them -- people like Angel Cabrera, Bill George, Daisy Wademan Dowling, Andy Zelleke, Batia Mishan Wiesenfeld, Evan Wittenberg, Dr. Ellen Langer, and Scott Snook -- to sit for a video with their insights.
It's a fascinating mix of answers, and not the kind you generally hear about in business school. Here are a few of them that caught my eye:
- Dr. Angel Cabrera, who was President of the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona and is now President of George Mason University -- "The single most important thing a leader has is trust of followers. You're not a leader if there are no followers."
- Bill George, professor at the Harvard Business School -- "Actually, I think that leadership is not about skills. It's about the character of the leader and the person within, and I think the most important thing a leader has to do is to find their authentic voice and their authentic self."
- Daisy Wademan Dowling, Executive Development at Morgan Stanley who is now Managing Director and Head of Talent Development at The Blackstone Group -- "Leaders can't be effective unless they have two things ... the first is they need empathy, so they have to understand the people around them and where they're coming from, because if they can't have that human connection and really understand the people they're leading or working alongside, I don't think they are going to be able to lead effectively ... and I think just a relentless desire to build capacity in the people around them. In other words, I think leaders need to be teachers.:
Yes, mindfulness is a great leadership trait too
There's a lot more of course, and it's pretty tightly packaged in a video that's less than six minutes overall. If you are looking for intriguing leadership advice that's different from what you normally hear, this is for you.
And one more thing: make sure you stick with the video long enough to catch Harvard's Dr. Ellen Langer, who discuss mindfulness. This is a quality you don't hear about much when people start talking about important traits for leader, and it's a fascinating concept to hear her dig into.