What do people look for in a leader?


Camila Ellis, Stellar Consulting Group By Camila Ellis, Lead Consultant at Stellar

Camila Ellis recently joined Stellar as a Lead Consultant in our Wellington office. In her first blog post for Stellar, she reflects on the final day at her former job.

As I chaired my last team meeting, said my goodbyes, and passed on the team mascot to the brave person who will do my job for a few months, my highly experienced team started to comment on who the new manager could be.

I decided to ask the following question: “Can you describe in one word the ideal leader for this team?”

After a few seconds they all started to think of words to throw into the conversation. I was very excited to see everyone thinking of that one word. Here are some of the words the team tabled:

  • Freedom (to allow team members to explore different areas of interest)
  • Strategic
  • Dynamic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Passionate about our field
  • Awesome
  • Caring
  • Belief
  • Integrity
  • Diplomat with balls (sorry, their words not mine)
  • Good listener

As the words started to pop and someone was writing them down, I was kind of doing my own assessment and determined that I am going down the right path but still have a long way to go.

More importantly though, what really resonated with me is that no one said anything about technical skills.

Straight after the meeting, I remembered some research done by Gallup between 2005 and 2008 where they asked 2 questions:

  1. What leader has had the most positive impact in your life?
  2. List 3 words that best describe what this person contributes to your life.

To cut a long story short, the research resulted in 4 basics needs: Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope.

The thoughts of my team somehow align to these four words. You can say that Freedom is in Trust, and so on.

The whole exercise gives me a lot of hope. In a digital world, people who are working on improving or becoming those words are very likely to succeed. It seems like you could lead in any field and get into different industries at any point of your career as long as you could meet those four basic needs.

“Leadership is influence. Nothing less, nothing more,” says John C Maxwell.

Having the ability to influence while meeting those basic needs – Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope – is certainly not an easy task. Perhaps that explains why it is so hard to find great leaders.

Main photo: Rvs1966 on Flickr


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