sink or swim leadership traits

In the 1980’s, the Center for Creative Leadership began to study why some executives succeed while others fail in order to pinpoint behaviors or characteristics that are inherent in successful leaders. Their findings included observations in five major areas.

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Connection Between Behavior and Success

1. Emotional stability and composure. Unsuccessful managers had difficulty dealing with pressure and were more prone to outbursts and unpredictable behavior. Successful managers were able handle crisis situations calmly and maturely.

2. Defensiveness. Managers who were unsuccessful were insecure and defensive about their shortfalls and failures and typically reacted by blaming those around them or covering up errors, while managers who were successful took personal responsibility for mistakes and sought to fix their problems.

3. Integrity. Unsuccessful managers tended to step on others in order to get ahead, focusing on impressing higher ups and showing up rivals. They were not considered trustworthy by those around them. On the other hand, effective leaders focused on the task at hand and the needs of others, and were considered by those around them to have a great deal of integrity.

4. Interpersonal communication.  Those working with unsuccessful leaders considered them intimidating, outspoken, abrasive, and inconsiderate. Strong leaders were viewed as sensitive to others, diplomatic, and tactful in their approach to others.

5. Cognitive and technical skills. Unsuccessful leaders tended to have a narrow technical skill set. Their arrogance and inability to accept input from others was a downfall. Successful leaders tended to have a broader skill set and were open to the ideas to others.

What kind of leader are you? Weighing our own behaviors and actions against those observed in successful leaders can help us sharpen our leadership skills.

A man’s action is only a picture book of his creed.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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*Image courtesy of Michal Marcol/

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