Improving Leadership Skills for a Better Career, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, Improving Leadership Skills for a Better Career, you read a summary of the responses after I sent an email to 100 of my friends and colleagues all over the country in various stages of life and career. I asked them for one word or short phrase of their definitions of leadership. To me, the responses show personality, ability to follow directions (or not), creativity, thoughtfulness, maturity, and lack of experience in leadership. Here are verbatim responses:

“Integrity, commitment, and willingness to do whatever you ask of others.”
— VP of HR, Supply chain/consumer products

“To be a compassionate and pro-active listener.”
— Project Coordinator, Computer Industry

“I think being able to know where each member of your team's strengths and then approaching them in ways they will respond to. So if someone on the team is more analytical then giving an assignment that is geared towards analysis or asking direction from them in this area is a sign that the Team Manager knows his/her team strengths. At the same time giving team members ways to develop other strengths such as presentation or writing skills is a sign of a Manager that is thinking of his/her employee development.”
— Recruiter/Sourcer, many industries

  1. “Patience
  2. Energy
  3. Listening.”

— Educational consultant, former principal, and teacher

  1. “Trustworthy
  2. Inspect what you expect
  3. Constructive feedback”

— Director of Digital Media Specialties

— Insurance company owner

“Hard to pin it down to a single characteristic. There are many things I like to see, but: The most important characteristic of a good leader is that he/she makes good decisions.”
— Engineering Professor from major Texas university

“Leads by example and willing to roll up sleeves and do the work.”
— Recruiting Manager, healthcare

“To clearly communicate where we are going (direction) and how we are going to get there.”
— Project Manager, Consumer Goods

“Inspired confidence.”
— Project Manager, Construction

“Compassionate listener with a good moral compass.”
— Hardware Manager, Telecom

“Should be charismatic and inspirational.”
— Product Manager, Semiconductor

“A true leader has the ability to use experiences to empathize with all those around them (not sympathize) and offer guidance and direction while building the team.”
— Consultant, PR, Non-Profits

“I heard Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf speak on leadership. He said a good leader chooses to do the right thing.”
— Sales, Medical Devices

“The first thing that came to mind was charisma and second, more thoughtful answer, is authenticity.”
— HR Director, Computer Business Services

“Respect for others.”
— Job Seeker, Administrative

“Walk the talk.”
— Agency Recruiter/Manager, Finance and IT

— CEO, IT Recruiting Agency

“Leading yourself.”
— Counselor, Outplacement

— Software Engineer, new supervisor in IT/Telecom

  1. “To find, recognize, and secure the future.
  2. Understand fundamental change.
  3. Recognize complexity of systems and how small changes can cause extreme challenges.
  4. Charasmatic Leader; Style of Leadership can have profound impact on productivity.
  5. Power of Vision; Visionary Leadership — Shared Vision is the single most valuable asset to building success.
  6. Be aware of the political environment around me.
  7. Get into a people management role.
  8. Look for self-development activities.
  9. Focus on results-driven performance.
  10. Speak my mind.”

— Consultant in Cyber Security

“Lead by example not by words and know his people like family.”
— Senior VP, Sales and Marketing, sensors for various applications

  1. “Reward the performers
  2. Motivate the laggards, and
  3. Assuage the prima donnas.”

— Manager, telecom

“Management is by and through others, build a good team and then lead it.”
— Program Manager, IT

“Moxie and… Defined on as

  1. vigor; verve; pep.
  2. courage and aggressiveness; nerve.
  3. skill; know-how.

That about covers it!!!!!”
— Employment Attorney

Leadership means being extraordinary, compassionate, able to make decisions, and confident. I am grateful to my colleagues and friends for their responses are insightful and thought-provoking. I urge you to take time to make your own list of what leadership means to you and then act on it. Since the majority of the responses came from the Texas area, I think it would be fascinating to see if people in Boston, San Jose, and Orlando would answer differently. The bottom line seems to be that we all should be working to be better leaders regardless of our job titles and responsibilities.

The graphic is a compilation of all the comments from the participants in this unsophisticated commentary on what leadership means. A big thanks to for allowing us to use their software to produce it.

Visualize Leadership

(Source: Wordle)

(Source: Wordle)

31 comments on “Improving Leadership Skills for a Better Career, Part 2

  1. Houngbo_Hospice
    May 18, 2013

    A leader should be able to make good decision for sure, but it doesn't mean that every “final” decision should come from the leader. Leadership means the ability to work with many disparate team members.

  2. _hm
    May 18, 2013

    @Hospice: I agree with you. I like leader who listens more, learns more and speaks less. He will late team member take joint decision to meet his target.


  3. elctrnx_lyf
    May 19, 2013

    It is very important that leader shouls speak as ell as he listen to people. He should be curious and thought provoking with his expertise on the particular product area. He is definitely the one ho should be ready to risk and continuously looking for new challenges.

  4. _hm
    May 19, 2013

    @elctrnx: Technology is changing at very rapid pace and most often leader are unable to keep up with this. Technology problem needs lot of detail study and research, which leader is unable to do. Hence, in world of product design it is preferred leader learn more and let designer take mutually agreed decision which meets company goals. Engineer, product designer always want to help leader and company.


  5. Ruth Glover
    May 19, 2013

    Thank you for your comments.  I think there are times that a simple vote may work for the team and other times, the team may not be aware of factors behind the scene.  Then, a good leader must use effective commnication to explain what is best for the team AND the company.  Although I think transparency and collaboration are important in leadership, there are definitely times when confidentiality is critical.

  6. Wale Bakare
    May 20, 2013

    That's paved way for shopping for stand-out innovations and probably induced an aggressive acquisitions today. 

  7. Taimoor Zubar
    May 20, 2013

    I think there's an important distinction between leaders and managers and a lot of people are not able to distinguish them. What differentiates a leader from a manager is the ability to motivate people towards a common goal. Good planning, analytical and controlling skills are important for a manager but the essential skills which does set a leader apart are the people skills.

  8. Taimoor Zubar
    May 20, 2013

    Technology problem needs lot of detail study and research, which leader is unable to do”

    @_hm: I don't think a leader is required to do technological study and research. This is what the engineers in the organization are for. A leader has to lead from the top and hence be good at managing people and ensuring that they are up to date with the knowledge and developments.

  9. Taimoor Zubar
    May 20, 2013

    Leadership means the ability to work with many disparate team members.”

    @Hospice: I agree completely. Team management is essential for a leader. The ability to make teams perform at their fullest and ensure that every member of the team ends up contributing is very important and doesn't come easily. Only good leaders are able to achieve it.

  10. Eldredge
    May 21, 2013

    There are some excellent comments here on leadership. A leader needs to be a good listener, but I also think a good leader must be able to recognize when a decision needs to be made, communicate that decision, and move on.


  11. Himanshugupta
    May 21, 2013

    I think leaders need different skill set depending on which area they belong to. For example a social leader needs good social and political skills, an industrial leader needs managing resouces skills, technology leader should be innovative etc. As most of us are working in technology sector so i remember Steve Jobs, who said and i quote:Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

  12. Wale Bakare
    May 21, 2013

    Does your area of expertise really matters when you are expected to perform your responsibility as a leader?

  13. Wale Bakare
    May 21, 2013

    In a succint way one can say leadership is about providing and managing state of people's affairs and resources. While management is all about draw up strategies and tactics people employ to utilize any available resources to achieve a common goals.

  14. Houngbo_Hospice
    May 21, 2013


    I think it does matter. A good leader will perform well if he/she is the right person at the right place. 

  15. Houngbo_Hospice
    May 21, 2013


    “What differentiates a leader from a manager is the ability to motivate people towards a common goal.”

    I see! But isn't the role of a manager to motivate her/his team for better a performance? I think a good manager should be a good leader for his/her team.

  16. Ruth Glover
    May 21, 2013

    I've kept a little quiet while your comments were posted, thus far.  They are wonderfully thought-provoking.  

    Personally, I think the individual contributor or team member often leads with constructive suggestions, technical acumen and passion.  I don't particularly like to separate leadership from management but the short definition from Wales makes sense.  

    We may see different requirements for the leader of a food pantry than a manufacturing facility for food processing.  But they both need to understeand supply chain and the other factors involved in leading their teams.

  17. Himanshugupta
    May 22, 2013

    @Wale, I do not think that a leader's area of expertise is a limiting factor but i think that a leader needs to have a good understanding of the required expertise so that he/she can lead or choose the right people to give suggestions and feedback.

  18. Himanshugupta
    May 22, 2013

    Ruth, thanks for nice comments. I agree with you that leaders are leaders irrespective of their expertise. I also agree that there is a big difference between a leader and a manager. A manager might have similar qualities across spectrum but every leader is unique as far as qualities are concerned. For example, a technology leader who is good at innovation might not have good personal and social skills so he/she will not be a good politician/manager and vice versa. 

    To me a leader is someone who explore a path not explored before and motivate others to follow. 

    May 22, 2013

    I always ask myself this question…..”would I follow my boss over the top” (WW1 analogy) and if the answer is no then he/she is not a great leader.

  20. Ruth Glover
    May 22, 2013

    A manager and leader must understand what the team is doing to be able to integrate with the other partners or teams. It seems particularly important in a small company that leaders must understand what the others are doing. In a large supply chain, the CEO may not understand the technology of the chip in the system, but, hopefully, has good leadership that report to him or her.

  21. Taimoor Zubar
    May 22, 2013

    But isn't the role of a manager to motivate her/his team for better a performance? I think a good manager should be a good leader for his/her team.”

    @Hospice: When we refer to leading team within an organization we're looking at leadership skills in a manager and that's quite essential to have. However, leaders are generally people at the top of the organization responsible for taking the entire organization along as opposed to managers who are responsible for small teams.

  22. Taimoor Zubar
    May 22, 2013

    In a large supply chain, the CEO may not understand the technology of the chip in the system, but, hopefully, has good leadership that report to him or her”

    @Ruth: From what I've seen, if the CEO is very technical in nature and gets into the minute details, he's likely to compromise on his leadership role and this may eventually hurt the business in the long run.

  23. Ruth Glover
    May 22, 2013

    I've certainly seen CEOs that know nothing about certain technologies but in start ups, the CEO for a tech product can, indeed, become overly involved in the day to day issues.  The better ones know they must shake the money tree but be very aware of what is going on in the home office.

  24. Ashu001
    May 22, 2013


    Not clear.

    Are you trying to say its okay in a Tech company if you Don't know the product as long as you know how to Make Money?

    Sounds a little over-optimistic to me personally.

    Tech companies need CEOs who are aware and know what works and what does'nt.

    Else they can very easily be washed out by the Latest and Greatest competitors around.


  25. Ruth Glover
    May 22, 2013

    Sorry for my lack of clarity.  I think sometimes CEO's don't pay close enough attention to what is going on and paying too much attention to the money and PR, but the one who can balance the myriad of issues, such as people, technology, product development, sales, etc., will probably do well.  As a small company grows, finding the right people to delegate the different issues competently helps, but there still needs to be serious awareness of what is happening.  We are probably singing the same song!

  26. Himanshugupta
    May 23, 2013

    i have personal experience of working in a startup company and the organization in such companies is usually flat. Most people wear two or three hats at the same time. The co-founders are usually CEOs or CTOs or VPs and know the company like the back of their hand. But as the company grows so do the needs and complexities.

  27. Ashu001
    May 24, 2013


    Yes we most certainly seem to be sharing similar thoughts here!

  28. Ashu001
    May 24, 2013


    Correct-This is where Flexibility(especially from The Founders) is essential.

    You need to understand when to Let Go(and let others more experienced/Knowledgeable than yourself) come in and run the Show.

    This where Founders fail more often than not.

  29. itguyphil
    May 24, 2013

    Leadership is especially critical in these instances. All of the people you mentioned in the flat hierarchy need to have some really good mentoring. This way, they can quickly see the error in their ways and pivot before leading their companies down dark paths.

  30. Taimoor Zubar
    May 28, 2013

    @Ruth: I think start-ups are very interesting when it comes to the role of CEO. One on hand, the CEO (who's usually the owner and the founder) cannot afford to completely let go of his baby and be run by managers. On the other hand, if he continues to focus too much on the day-to-day mundane tasks, the strategic decision making and long-term growth of the business will be impacted.

  31. Ruth Glover
    May 28, 2013

    Since we “own” our careers, the same as the CEO may own his or her start-up, we make similar decisions about moving our careers forward.  When is it time to say, “I can't do this any more!”  When is time to dig farther into making it work?  That's rhetorical, of course.  

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