by Russell S. Reynolds, Jr.
I believe the first characteristic of any leader is to put other people’s interests ahead of his or her own. By this I mean you have to wake up in the morning and worry about doing “the right thing”. This means doing the right thing for your customers, your employees, and your stockholders.
Leaders of good public companies think about long-term results rather than quarterly earnings. They look people in the eye and are good listeners. They want to know what other people think. Leaders get out of their own office, and into the offices of their customers, suppliers, and investors. They lead to serve others, not themselves. A true leader makes sure other people are paid well before he thinks of himself. Excessive compensation is a sign of greed, not leadership. In my opinion, leaders put their families and their family’s well-being ahead of their business interests when realistically possible.
Leaders have confidence. They have to appear to be self-assured without being arrogant. They should be well-dressed, neat, clean, and well put together. They should have nice clothes but not be extravagant. Leaders must be able to express themselves in public speaking. If they are not good at it, they should take courses and get coaching.
Leaders should also be altruistic. Well-run companies should be good citizens of the community, their country and the world, by supporting worthwhile causes charitably, and encouraging their people to do the same thing. They should get involved politically, regardless of party affiliation, to express their views as part of a democracy. Having a faith is also helpful.
In addition to the above, leaders have to work harder, be well prepared for meetings, know more about their client then the client knows, and set an example for everyone else around them, which they want to follow. In other words, being a leader is not always easy and it is not always fun. Leaders are supportive of their people, their predecessors, and their successors. They are positive. While being realistic, great leaders motivate people by seeing the good and the positive in what they are doing. All of us spend most of our lives working in an office. It should be fun, enjoyable, and rewarding, and good leaders make that happen.
Russell S. Reynolds, Jr., Managing Director, RSR Partners
Russ Reynolds is the managing partner of RSR Partners, consultants in executive search, succession planning and corporate governance. The firm works with leading and emerging companies to recruit corporate directors, CEOs and other senior executives in a broad range of industries.
Russ had previously founded and been the CEO of Russell Reynolds Associates, which under his leadership became one of the world’s leading international executive recruiting firms, as RSR Partners now has become. Because of his exceptional judgment, qualities and standards, Russ has counseled the chairmen, presidents, CEOs, and boards of a great many companies. Russ has always been deeply involved in his community, Greenwich, CT, and also deeply involved with Yale University.
It is a privilege to have Russ be a guest leader. He, himself, is an exceptional leader and I absolutely agree with his principles of highly effective leadership, grounded in putting others before us. I wish all my clients and other readers could meet Russ. We’d all be better off for it.