Current Leadership Qualities that make True Leaders

Recently the Australian Financial Review undertook its annual study on the €true leaders€ in Australia for 2003. Whilst they found there was no one formula for good leadership, there were some common trends amongst the leaders identified.

In a back-to-basics tone of the corporate, public sector and not-for-profit organisations presently, there is talk of consistency and durability and of low-key leaders who let others and the organisation shine rather than take the spotlight. This is the style of captain coach leadership that we have spoken about in previous Creative Coaching newsletters. In particular, human attributes of good leaders appear to be back in fashion, replacing the emphasis on risk taking and bold expansion.

According to this study, the essential elements of good leadership seem to centre upon:

  • consistent values and bringing the team with you
  • the need for durability and sustainable results
  • great leaders who are well read and treat their organisations as something that has to be nurtured, grown, pruned and fertilised. They create a culture of €intellectual curiosity€
  • a track record of delivering results and knowing what you stand for
  • a continuous series of styles and behaviours brought to bear according to the situation
  • distribution of quality leadership at all levels of the organisation
  • balancing the need for human people skills with meeting performance targets. Traditionally many organisations have been very good at systems, process and financial management. But as Fiona Krautil, director, Equal Opportunity for Women says, €The bit that we are now looking for as well is the relationships that will hold that together.

More specifically, here are some key views on leadership from some of those who made the AFR BOSS True Leaders list this year. As you read them, reflect on how you would rate your leadership values and behaviours against these attributes.
  • Gordon Cairns, CEO of Lion Nathan brewery puts his success down to becoming more people focused as well as implementing a sustainable management structure that is bringing sustainable results. He has used a 360degree instrument (Note: the same instrument is also available through australian growth coaching) to assess and enhance leadership style across the organisation.

  • Denise Bradley, Vice Chancellor University of South Australia believes leaders need a broad knowledge of far more than what€s happening in their own industries.

  • Peter Shergold, Secretary Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (formally of the Department of Education, Science and Training) is recognised for his bias towards action. He€s also effective in balancing his strengths and weaknesses with the contributions of a strong executive team.

  • Tim Costello, Director Urban Mission Unit with the Baptist Church is an optimist who has been highly successful in building relationships with other business and community stakeholders.

  • Christine Nixon, Chief Commissioner Victoria Police has made a point of being well educated with three degrees and her greatest skill is in communications. In particular, she demonstrates great empathy with others.

  • David Butcher, CEO Worldwide Fund for Nature says that leaders should act as custodians of a vision € and ensure other people can see it too.

  • Roger Corbett, CEO Woolworths is very focused and he delivers. He has his values, people know what they are and he lives by them.

  • Wal King CEO Leighton Holdings is a highly experienced leader who believes you need to be able to accept criticism, be able to modify your decisions and modify your behaviour. Recognising achievement is also a key platform.

  • Gail Kelly, CEO St George bank has reinvented the bank by looking for quick wins and a focus on action.

  • Graham Turner, MD Flight Centre insists on keeping the workplace fun. As a benchmark of entrepreneurial success, his ethos emphasises balancing the physical parts of an organisation with its spiritual side and allowing them to feed off each other.
It is interesting to note that many of the organisations listed above have implemented formal organisational coaching programs as a practical way of supporting leadership development and succession planning. It is also worth mentioning that these €true leaders€ value learning from other individuals and organisations.

One of the many ways you can keep learning from others is to seek out those who have been successful and ask them to be a coach or mentor for you.

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