1. Vision. If William Roisden had a vision, he never let on what it was.When he assumed the lead of an information-services company division, he relied heavily on a colleague to map out a strategy, which the two of them unveiled to the staff. Overtime, the division enjoyed steady revenues but also steadily declining profits. After his colleague left a year or two later, Roisden (not his real name) let their vision burrow underground, and there it stayed.
Lesson: Visionaries look forward and discern the future. You must live beyond the pressures of the moment.
2. Integrity. Honesty stood out as Roisden’s best characteristic: He told everyone the truth, and he tried to help his direct reports succeed.
Lesson: Integrity and good will form a solid foundation, and they make up for other faults. But good character alone won’t make you a leader. You need the skills.
3. Competency. Coming from a government background, Roisden plodded along, lacking much of the knowledge about databases and the still-new Internet that he needed to operate in a cowboy marketplace. He touted his IT experience but didn’t update his skills. Instead, he chewed up time charting and analyzing the division’s numbers: a luxury his small company couldn’t afford.
Lesson: Leaders learn their trade by doing as well as by thinking.
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Lesson: You can’t aim forever. At some point, you’ve got to shoot.
5. Charisma. Roisden spent a lifetime overcoming shyness. While he loved to tell stories—and was good at it—he rarely spoke to anyone besides his direct reports, whom he held in interminable meetings. He never talked with customers. He didn’t have the faintest idea how to look at things from his employees’ viewpoint. He had no contact with his peers except when invited to a dinner.
Lesson: Go out there, and be a player.
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