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The elements of leadership

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Two professors at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business have plenty of ideas about what it takes to be a leader.  

Asked whether the proliferation of business leadership programs suggests a shortage of good leaders, the husband-and-wife team of Jack and Carol Weber say it’s simply that more leaders are needed.

When they first started teaching, the Webers say, everyone assumed that you couldn’t teach leadership, that leaders are born, not made. With discoveries in brain science over the past few years, that’s all changed.

Here’s the couple’s assessment of the necessary ingredients:
  • Initiative. Today we see organizations needing leaders at every level, not just people who wait to follow instructions. One cause may be that previous generations of children organized their own play, including games and teams, while for the past generation, adults have increasingly organized kids’ play for them.
  • Restlessness. In countries like India, China and South Africa, leaders are dissatisfied with the status quo and eager to harness people’s willingness and energy to make life better. They’re hungry.
  • Courtesy. The Webers note a sense of courtesy in Virginia they say is missing elsewhere. Even when leaders disagree, the atmosphere is less aggressive and confrontational.
  • Resilience. Traits that can help you become more resilient include self-awareness, clarity of purpose and an ability to read what’s happening around you. Unfortunately, members of Gen Y are showing a low tolerance for frustration. They’re used to getting the right answer, right away and getting immediate help.
  • Openness. “It requires courage and humility,” Carol Weber says, “to understand that somebody else’s ideas might be really, really valuable.” At the same time, leaders have to parse their own ideas. “We have a mantra in our course,” Jack Weber adds, “which is: Don’t believe everything you think.”
  • Greatness. Yes, it’s still important, even though the “great person” notion of leadership popular 20 years ago is all but gone. You need humanity and caring, coupled with self-discipline and integrity. The good news: You can be that great person.
—Adapted from “A conversation on leadership with Carol and Jack Weber,” Bernie Niemeier, Virginia Business.

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