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5 surprising traits of great leaders

In my career as an executive recruiter, I’ve learned through thousands of interviews in dozens of countries to pay attention to how the C-suite candidate interacts with the receptionist

Source | | MANNY PADDA

I’ve interviewed over 5,000 people from more than 35 countries in my career as an executive headhunter and investor. I’ve sought out CEOs, presidents, board directors, and more for companies big and small, ranging from small startups to corporations with valuations in excess of $10 billion, on every continent except Antarctica.

Along the way, working with firms in sectors like mining, technology, education, and healthcare, I’ve learned that, contrary to popular theories, most of the qualities that make great leaders won’t show up on their LinkedIn profiles or a Myers-Briggs personality test. But they will show up in their mannerisms, their way of speaking and–most importantly–how they interact with others.

Here are five somewhat surprising qualities I’ve learned to screen for in my career handpicking the people at the top of the org chart.


Above all, great leaders have to be relatable and empathetic. They understand what motivates people at a human level and how to influence situations. I’ve seen this countless times behind the interviewer’s desk, but the best example may be someone I’ve never sat down with: Barack Obama.

Whether he was horsing around with kids in the White Housedancing with a 106-year-old lady, or cracking jokes on late-night TV, he interacted with people from diverse walks of life with humility, even while holding the most powerful job in the United States.

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