The Wheel of Modern Leadership: 7 Timeless Traits of Success
If you’re anything like me, the current state of the world probably has you scratching your head, wondering how to respond to it. We have a job market in a constant state of flux, with some sectors seeing record employment and others experiencing drastic layoffs. We have the rise of artificial intelligence, which inspires either dread or wonder depending on who you talk to. And underneath it all, we can all feel the increasing pressure to become relentless productivity machines in order to stay relevant. The world just keeps moving faster, as it always seems to do.
It is quite honestly crazy-making sometimes. How can you ever be prepared as a business leader when the pace of change keeps quickening? Contrary to what you might be thinking, it’s not about keeping your finger on the pulse of the market or staying on the bleeding edge of tech. Half the battle, in my experience, is simply showing up—but there are simple ways of making sure you always show up at your best.
Consider these timeless traits: communication, relationship building, consistency, accountability, personal and professional development, mentorship, and mindset. These concepts form a “Wheel of Modern Leadership” that, when utilized properly, can prepare you for almost anything. In fact, I would argue that the more the world of business changes around us, the more important these simple concepts become.
Focusing on these qualities will help separate true leaders from the crowded field of supervisors and managers. Because before you can lead others, you need to lead yourself well. In this article, we’ll discuss the traits that make up the spokes of The Wheel of Modern Leadership—and we’ll take a look at some stats and real-world examples to illustrate their importance.
The cornerstone of thriving in any profession or industry—or any human relationship, for that matter—is effective communication. We all need to embrace clarity, conciseness, and openness when telling others what we need or expect. Arguably more important is being measured in our communications so we don’t overpromise and underdeliver. By keeping the lines of communication open, we can better align our understanding, enhance teamwork, and ultimately elevate our productivity.
Research by the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that a staggering 56% of project failures stem from poor communication. Look no further than Apple for a prime example of communication done right: Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, possesses exceptional communication abilities that inspire collaboration and innovation within the organization.
Have you been communicating clearly at work? Over the next week or so, really stop and think about what you’re saying to coworkers (and what you’re not saying). Are you overpromising? Are there things you need that you’re afraid to ask for? You may find that your communication skills need strengthening.
Cultivating positive relationships within the professional realm lays the groundwork for trust, open dialogue, and a united pursuit of shared objectives. So much positive change can happen over the course of a career depending on who you know, so every encounter should be treated with care and consideration.
A Gallup study disclosed that tight-knit work friendships increase employee satisfaction by 50%. Strong relationships contribute to a constructive workplace atmosphere, which in turn improves job satisfaction and employee retention. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, epitomizes the art of relationship building in the business world. Branson ascribes much of his success to his capacity to forge and maintain robust relationships with employees, partners, and clients.
Take a moment to think about your reputation as it stands now. Think about who’s rooting for you, who’s in need of your help, and who you may have let down over the course of your professional life. It’s not always easy to take such personal assessments, but the reminder to cultivate our personal and professional relationships is priceless.
Remember the old adage? “50 percent of success is just showing up.” Look under the hood of that phrase and you’ll find consistency. This is paramount for establishing a solid reputation, which in turn paves the way for greater opportunities, responsibilities, and trust from colleagues and management.
Brent Gleeson, best-selling author and former Navy SEAL, has written plenty of articles that underscore the importance of consistency in leadership. Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, exemplifies this idea. His disciplined investment approach and unwavering decision-making have propelled his extraordinary accomplishments in the business arena.
It’s not always easy, but we all have an opportunity to get up and face the day, regardless of how much change it may bring. Remember this as you assess your own strengths and weaknesses: just being present and available means so much in your professional journey.
Accountability demonstrates integrity, earning the trust and respect of colleagues and superiors alike. But to be truly accountable, one must leave room for self-reflection, acknowledging both successes and failures in equal measure—only then can we prepare for challenges that lie ahead.
When it comes to holding others accountable, it appears we all have room to grow. In a Workplace Accountability Study conducted by Partners in Leadership, 91% of respondents cited “improving the ability to hold others accountable in an effective way” as a top area for leadership development. I think we could all learn from the example of Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, whose commitment to accountability has been instrumental in the company’s growth and success.
As you consider your own accountability, ask yourself if you acknowledge your achievements and shortcomings equally. Embracing this concept can help us all navigate the evolving landscape of work.
Personal & Professional Development
Pursuing continuous learning and growth is vital to remaining relevant and progressing in one’s career. This idea is intoxicating to the professional students among us, who always seem to be working on their next master’s degree or exciting new certification. But some of us need a nudge into expanding our skills and minds, both in and out of the office.
According to research conducted by LinkedIn, 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Fostering personal growth, such as emotional intelligence or healthy habits, can also bolster job satisfaction and overall well-being. Google has long been an exemplar of a company that prioritizes personal and professional development. The tech behemoth provides a plethora of training programs, workshops, and resources to support employee growth and skill enhancement.
If you feel like you’re stuck in one place at work, take a good long look at your options for personal and professional development. Find ways to get excited about gaining proficiency in new skills! It could be that the next step in your career is only a certification away.
Engaging in mentorship presents a powerful avenue for acquiring new abilities and gaining fresh perspectives. And when you find the right mentor in your own professional journey, it makes your personal development so much easier. Here we find the ultimate example of all boats rising together. By sharing your expertise with the next generation coming up (and accepting the nuggets of wisdom from a generation behind) the entire workforce can move forward together into the unknown.
A 2022 report by MentorcliQ revealed that 84% of U.S. Fortune 500 companies depend on formal mentorship programs. Having a mentor offers guidance, encouragement, and invaluable feedback, while mentoring others enables the sharing of wisdom and experiences, fostering leadership skills in the process. Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Meta, is a renowned proponent of mentorship. She attributes a substantial portion of her success to the counsel and backing she received from mentors throughout her journey.
This is a great time to take an inventory of the important people in your professional life. Who can you help by sharing your expertise and who might be your ideal source of wisdom? As busy as you might be, maybe you can find time to grab a coffee with both of them.
Let’s consider two opposing concepts: “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset.” Which of these best describes your way of thinking? Answer honestly, because if you’re not open to change with a fixed mindset, you will only hinder your progress at work and in life. A growth mindset—a concept introduced by psychologist Carol Dweck in 2006—frames everything as an opportunity.
Consider the story of Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. When he took over the reins in 2014, he pushed for a profound cultural change within the organization. His leadership was underpinned by the belief in a growth mindset, a shift from a previously entrenched way of thinking. Nadella’s approach was to frame every situation as a potential opportunity for learning and improvement. This marked transformation in the company’s mindset is frequently credited for Microsoft’s impressive resurgence in the global tech scene.
As someone who aspires to modern leadership, it’s your duty to cultivate a mindset that is adaptable, flexible, and agile. As things change exponentially faster around us, we must remain flexible and make room for growth in our professional lives.
What Does Your Wheel Look Like?
In the articles to come, we’ll take a closer look at each timeless trait and give you further opportunities to assess your strengths in the workplace. It’s within all of us to tap into these qualities, adding spokes to our own wheels of modern leadership in the process. The end result is almost certainly a more successful career, and by extension, a more positive workplace culture. By adhering to The Wheel of Modern Leadership, we can all become more well-rounded and fulfilled at work, positioning ourselves for whatever opportunity or adversity may come.