Lesson in Leadership

10 Personal Skills That Set the Very Best Leaders Apart


Do you have the personal qualities you need to be an effective leader in the coming decades? Even if you’ve been successful so far, the answer may be no. The aggressive personality and hard-driving skill set that got so many leaders to the top in past years won’t keep working in the future.

That warning comes from Sandja Brügmann, serial entrepreneur and founder of the Passion Institute, a conscious leadership, strategic purpose, and sustainable business consultancy for executives and entrepreneurs. “Today, we are experiencing a shift away from the old, pure capitalist business principles, where success was measured purely by profits, with a high disregard for any damaging effects on the environment, health, and workers,” she says. “Instead, the focus is moving to the bigger interrelated picture and the environmental, cultural, social, and global impacts a business can have.”

Some of that evolution is happening for a very practical reason: the tight labor pool. With skilled employees increasingly able to choose among many employers, 77 percent of Millennials say they select companies they can be proud of, according to recent research by Deloitte. That means leaders who want success for the future must pay attention to the bigger picture or risk losing younger employees to more socially conscious employers.

Developing the qualities you need to be a “new paradigm” leader will make you happier as well, she adds. “People who have these leadership skills not only create stronger interrelations,” she says. “They also live the life they truly want to live.” And they help their businesses make a positive impact in the world at large as well. 

Here’s what you’ll need.

1. Courage.

Being courageous is “a winning skill to master,” Brügmann says. Make no mistake, courage isn’t the absence of fear but the ability to act in spite of fear–a skill that can be learned. “Real change happens outside of our comfort zone,” Brügmann says. So when you feel fear, rather than give in to it, move strategically forward in the desired direction in spite of it, she advises. “Practice strengthening that courage muscle.”

2. Radical responsibility.

“Stop the blame game,” Brügmann advises. Sound easy? “Commit to a week without complaining, and you’ll realize how difficult this is,” she says. “On a daily basis, we are surrounded by complaining and blaming mindsets.”

You can change that dynamic for yourself and your company. “Taking radical responsibility in every situation, and taking action toward the world you envision, will drive a proactive mindset of conscious business,” she says. 

3. Healthy anger.

“Anger has gotten a bad reputation in our society and culture,” Brügmann says. “The truth is, anger holds an incredible amount of power when it comes to accessing passion and the ability to create and manifest a vision.”

In today’s world of growing discontent with greed-driven businesses, Brügmann expects a lot more expressions of healthy anger in the coming years. For leaders, “learning to stay present with anger–which denotes that something is not OK with you–and then creating a plan of action to remedy the problem and establish better working efforts will be a key future skill,” she says. “Healthy anger is needed for you to know what works and doesn’t work in the present moment, and that’s a skill visionary leaders need to possess.” 

4. Emotional intelligence.

“Leaders of tomorrow, and preferably already today, need deep emotional awareness and radical empathy skills in order to behave in a manner that goes beyond self-interests,” Brügmann says. Emotional intelligence reportedly accounts for 58 percent of performance in all types of jobs, and 83 percent of those with high self-awareness are top performers. “It’s hard to deny that this is a key skill for success,” she says.

5. Sensuousness.

No, they don’t teach it in MBA programs. But Brügmann argues, “We have been driven by cultural, capitalistic, and materialistic forces for a very long time, to the point that we have lost touch with our true nature as human beings.”

You can get back to your true self by moving away from rational-only decision making she says. “Moving into a state where we experience the world through our senses not only allows for healthy emotional connectedness, but also means better decisions will be made.”

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