Leadership... what would your three words be?

I knew an incredible people leader who, as part of his development strategy, would give his people three words to consider for their personal development; sometimes the words were well received, and as I understand, sometimes not so much. As I was listening to him describe this over dinner, I could not help but ask what my three words would be; he looked at me, laughed, and said, "Sobriety, sobriety and sobriety". In fairness, it was a celebration dinner.

I was reminded of this the other night when the discussion of Leadership came up and we tried to articulate the qualities that make up good leadership. As with many of these types of conversations it usually starts with something rather innocuous, and then gets more refined and more serious as the conversation continues,

"OMG — I used to joke around with a colleague who was very grumpy but funny, funny, funny... and my daily question would be, 'Are you bitter, angry or resentful today?'. God I miss him... crazy funny."

The conversation continued to meander over a number of topics but it became apparent the topic of Leadership was not over when someone said,

"At the heart of all Leadership is clarity, vision and competency... How's that?"  

You could see heads nodding when someone added,

"Someone who is quietly confident, trusts and believes in his colleagues, and is able to get his hands dirty, and competently gets the job done."

The final words on the topic were eloquently added,

"Without being an idiot. Is that too much to ask?"

As we laughed and moved onto other dinner topics, I heard the person who started all of this say, "I miss my old boss".

And this brings me full circle back to that incredible people leader with his three words. I can't help but wonder what his three words would be to encapsulate "Leadership"?

By no means is listing the qualities that make up a great leader original — There are countless books, blogs, white papers and opinion on the topic, and I recommend you read as many as you can. What identifying three words does is ensure you have actually put some thought into leadership and prioritized what you think are the most important leadership competencies (there are definitely more than three). For right or for wrong, the three words you pick will represent your guiding principles on Leadership.

And any three words are better than the alternative... because then we aren't even discussing Leadership.  


PS: Mine are Selflessness, Transparency, and Vision.

PPS: Thank you to those around the table.