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What leadership quality–maybe one you had to work hardest to develop–has made the biggest difference in your ability to lead effectively?

Rob McKibbon

“How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, best source for me to strengthen this weakness.

Jonathan McDowell, JD, MBA


GREAT question. This answer will probably be different for everyone, with variations along the same lines for many. But with everyone having a different set of experiences and different personalities . . .

I’m still developing, but a few that I have purposely worked on, and have grown in are the following:

Active Listening: I used to never really ask questions to the person I was conversing with. After I answered their questions I was done. I read a book by Hugh Hewitt. In it he discusses following the “Five Questions Rule” in which he advises the reader to ask at least five questions in every conversation. The questions should come from the speaker’s content. Once I started doing this I realized that people WANT to tell their story, and when they do they think YOU really like them. When they think YOU really like them (which you normally will because of the connection) they really like you. At that point, you’re influence in their life exponentially grows.

Teachability: I don’t know what I don’t know. But I want to know. So I decided to take criticism as gently and non-personally as I can. There is ALWAYS someone that knows more than I do. Most the time, there are many people that know more than me. Realizing that released me to begin listening to experts and those with experience without filtering them through a “that’s not right” perspective. There are times when skepticism is needed, but I was using it too much. Once I started really listening to others and I decided to LEARN what they had to offer, I became more effective with those around me. (1) I had more ideas that could help in more situations, and (2) I had more valuable information that people wanted to hear.

Frank Feather

The one over-riding criteria is the need for VISION.

Yes, we need all the basic principles of leadership such as ethics and integrity, but true leaders have the ability to “see” and articulate a future vision, “map” how to go there, and then lead the way.

Without vision, there is no leadership. They are just chair-holders, going through the motions — pretend leaders — going nowhere, because they have no clue where they are heading.

Everything else follows.

For me, this was easy to learn, when I realized that only the future is manageable. You cannot manage the past (it is over), nor the present (it is but a fleeting nano-second). Therefore every decision needs to be made within a future-relevant context. Otherwise, you are spinning wheels.

Jonathan McDowell, JD, MBA


Another great Post. Thanks for committing to helping us learn.

I think VISION distinguishes leaders from those in leadership posts. I have been apart of organizations that have a figure-head but that head had no future vision. There was not a quantifiable, or qualitative, plan for the growth or success of our organization. I’m no longer in that organization and they haven’t moved much since.

“Where there is no vision the people perish.”

Danny Glover

Trudy, your question caused me to stop and think – harder for me than some!

Frank and Jonathan have responded with the vision answer, and I have to agree that this certainly separates leaders from others. I would also add relationship skills to the top of the list. I have known leaders with vision who failed to connect and therfore, they failed to effectively communicate. The end result their vision became a nightmare – or at best another in the list of unrealized dreams.

Jonathan McDowell, JD, MBA

Danny brings up a good point. Relationship is the glue that holds organizations together (Read Maxwell’s discussion on “Why does understanding people make the difference?”). Without making a connection with those around you (both above and below) the leader is nothing but a sitting duck. Idea guys can’t get anywhere without others to aid them in the implementation.

And is also why adding value to others is so important. Adding value to others starts to solidify the relationship. I’m always available to people that consistently add value to me

You can visit John’s blog for his own words on what comes first and while you’re out please sign up to take part in his new free video series and LinkedIn group.

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