When I conduct leadership seminars, I start by asking the participants who they think best personifies leadership. Most of the answers are predictable with familiar names of well-known celebrities. Presidents, generals and CEOs usually top the list. But the ultimate question is: Who would you like to be like?
It’s getting close to that time of year – the holidays — and of course the seasonal kick-off starts with that spooky-scary-magical day … Halloween. So let’s indulge in a little magic of our own. Imagine yourself in your own laboratory, because you — Dr. Frankenstein — are going to create the ultimate best version of yourself, using the best parts of other successful leaders to create the ultimate leader.
I think the perfect CEO would have the following qualities:
Charisma. It is easier to follow a leader you like and admire, even if you don’t agree with everything they think or do. I like Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan in this category. Both men had the ability to lead by leveraging their charisma. They assembled teams of friends and enemies, best in class for the betterment of the country and the world.
Intelligence. The top of the leaderboard here has Einstein and Edison. There’s also a couple of guys named Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The key to their success as leaders was a direct result of not only their raw intelligence, but the ability to see the future, and use their intelligence for another quality – innovation. From these leaders came many of the greatest inventions in history.
Decisiveness. I had the privilege of serving with General James Mattis, our previous Secretary of Defense. While he is likewise extremely intelligent and well read, his success was also largely due to his ability to be decisive. Not all his subordinates agreed with his decisions – but I guarantee he made decisions with enough information to select a clear course of action, without the paralysis of analysis.
Courage. I was alive in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when the Civil Rights Movement was born. While the language and currency of racism has changed over the decades, the fallout is the same; it brought out (and continues to elicit) the worst in human behavior and treatment of others. Dr. Martin Luther King had to have huge amounts of courage to lead and energize the Civil Rights movement. He talked the talk. He walked the walk. That took real courage.
Humility and Heart. The above qualities are important, but your success as a leader pales if you lead without humility. Your accomplishments are just words and numbers on paper if you do them without heart. The world has a hero in Mother Theresa. She served a higher purpose. She accomplished great things at the expense of great personal hardship and sacrifice. And always with love.
While I’m waiting for the lightning to strike so I can breathe life into my FrankenLeader, I think I will just strive to be the best I can be with those five qualities in mind.
After all, I’m only human.
About the Author: Michael Malone
Michael Malone has spent more than 41 years in the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve. He has been a CEO and senior executive in several technology companies, and has been a Vistage Chair since 2005.