Are You the Smartest or the Hardest Working?

by Ron Potter

Jamie Dimon has been a very successful leader of JPMorgan Chase for many years.  He talked of the traits to succeed that I found very interesting.

Traits of Successful Leaders

Mr. Dimon’s list of successful leadership traits included:

  • Humility
  • Openness
  • Fairness
  • Authenticity

He also included a shortlist of traits that don’t lead to being a successful leader.

  • Smartest person in the room
  • Hardest working person in the room

Later in the article, he enhanced these traits even further by distinguishing between management and leadership.

He identifies Management as

  • Get it done
  • Follow-up
  • Discipline
  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Facts, facts, facts

This is a great list and is much needed to run a business.  But these are management traits, not leadership traits.

Dimon goes on to say that the key to leadership is not just doing the management thing but having respect for people. (Italics mine)

Elements of Leadership

Humility.  This is the number one trait of great leadership that I list in my book Trust Me.  The understanding of humility has taken a wrong turn since the original definition.  Humility is not being a doormat or turning the other cheek.

The original definition of humility meant tremendous power under complete control.   Notice that there is tremendous power.  Much of that power is identified in Dimon’s management list above.  But leadership has this strong element of humility.  One of the key elements of humility is having a deep respect for every individual.  If that respect is not there, it leaves untethered power.

Humility is the number one issue of great leadership.  Humility doesn’t happen without a deep respect for each individual.

Openness.  Some of the words related to openness include accessible, lack of secrecy, and frankness.  Being open means that you’re accessible.  Being accessible in general, people can talk with you at any time about anything.

Being accessible in meetings—because people feel and experience the respect you have for them, they are completely at ease talking about any issue.  And because you’re frank, they also know they can state their beliefs and assumptions and they’ll hear the same from you.  They also know that your frank opinion is not the final say but another point of view to be considered in the “team” decision.

Fairness.  Once again, a dictionary definition is very helpful:  “Impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination.”  Can you see the equal respect for each individual in that statement?  Being fair with your team means taking each and every opinion and belief as equally valid.

Great teams understand that their individual beliefs and assumptions may not be the final answer but if they feel listened to with great respect, then they believe a great team decision will result.

Authenticity.  Authentic people are the same no matter what the circumstances.  There’s no question that you’ll hear the same thing from an authentic person regardless of who they’re speaking to.  They’ll say the same thing to an employee as they will to their boss.  There is no doubt in anyone’s mind.  They are simply themselves regardless of the situation or person they’re speaking with.

Be authentic.  Not being authentic is clearly and immediately noticeable by anyone and everyone.

Are You a Great Leader?

Or do you hope to become a great leader?  Yes, you’ll need to be a good manager but “good” managers begin to let their leadership traits come through even when they’re in a management position.  Even if you’re just a manager you can let the traits of a leader—Humility, Openness, Fairness, Authenticity—come through.

Great leadership traits always shine brighter than great management abilities.

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