What kind of leader are you? What kind of leader would you like to become?
These are the kind of questions that Randall White, founding partner of leadership coaching company Executive Development Group, expects professionals to think about.
Not only does he have decades of experience as a leader himself, but he is also the professor of leadership of the TRIUM Global Executive MBA, one of the top EMBA programs in the world and jointly delivered by HEC Paris, London School of Economics, and NYU Stern.
Randall frequently supports senior professionals transitioning into leadership roles. He helps them tackle the key challenges that affect those at the top level of management.
From organizational changes to evolving industry trends, the leaders of today need the right characteristics to keep on top of their evolving responsibilities.
So, what do professional leaders need to have? Here are three essential qualities that make a good leader.
Define leadership. The term means different things to different people, but essentially, Randall says it’s all about making something happen.
Most professionals will say that leadership is doing something to, for, or with another human being to achieve an end result.
But the trick is, leaders of today don’t need to do just one of these things, they need all three.
“That’s called leadership versality,” Randall says, “and versatile leaders learn where they excel and where they don’t, and they often handle their weaknesses and people who are better than they are at things, so that they have a more complete team.”
2. Be open to continuous learning
Randall states that a good leader is one that is open to learning, not only about the world around them and the individuals on their team, but also about themselves.
It takes more than a high-grade point average or the ability to successfully work on a project to be considered an active learner.
Leaders today are encouraged to constantly ask and encourage questions, as regardless of your level of expertise, there is always room for growth. This helps to create a trusting and respectful environment.
“The most critical skill for leaders in the 21st century is the ability to learn, grow, and change and to create a space where people in your company learn, grow, and change faster than your competitors,” Randall says.
“If I have learners in my company and you don’t, I will beat you in the marketplace every time.”
Continuous learning is a factor that TRIUM particularly prides itself on through its annual alumni-led event called Module 7, where alumni learn about the latest business trends from keynote speakers, peers, and faculty members.
3. Be street smart and emotionally intelligent
Randall acknowledges that there are different types of ‘smart’, and some matter more than others if you want to influence those around you.
The most common type is book smart, which typically refers to academic intelligence, and many leaders will pursue this feature. But it’s street smarts and emotional intelligence that will set you apart from your competitors and even your peers.
Being street smart is all about practical intelligence and being able to thrive in an unfamiliar environment.
Randall says that even if leaders are lacking in book smarts, street smart individuals are the ones that get things done.
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to be self-aware and empathetic.
“As we globalize, there’s no way I’m going to magically understand another complex culture in a matter of hours, days, or months, so I have to be empathetic,” says Randall.
It’s also about influencing those around you and helping them understand your decision making.
“A lot of times what I’ve had to learn is, it’s great that I have the ‘right answer’, but people don’t care if I have the right answer,” he says.
“They’re looking for me to have an answer that makes sense. If I can help them understand why it makes sense, and then tie it into their understanding and show them how we’re partnering to come up with a best solution, I’m influencing them.”