• 22nd September 2006 - By proteman

    What separates good leaders from great leaders? And does the business world have truly great leaders – those legendary, “championship” leaders who are the Tiger Woods and Michael Jordans of their professions?

    In today’s issue of USA Today, an article by Erik Brady shows that elite athletes share common threads. (Article: Soul of a Champion) In this first of a series of articles profiling “champions”, Brady focuses on the sports world. I couldn’t help but wonder – what makes a “champion” leader in today’s business world? Do the world’s legendary athletes and the world’s legendary leaders share common traits?

    The article quotes Patrick Cohn, a sports psychologist and president of Peak Performance Sports in Orlando Florida. He lists four “mental and emotional characteristics common to champion athletes.”

    • Competitiveness (I’d add the word “healthy” to competitiveness)
    • Confidence
    • Composure (under pressure)
    • Focus

    It can be argued that these traits – or competencies – also distinguish good leaders from those who are exceptional. Who in modern business fits this profile? The first person who comes to mind is Jack Welch. In modern politics, I think of Arnold Schwartzenegger (who also happens to have been a very successful businessman and athlete). Martha Stewart may not have been popular with everyone who worked with her, but she certainly built a business empire with confidence and competitiveness. And after her arrest and imprisonment for securities violations – kept her composure and stayed focused as she ran her empire from jail.

    If we had to define these four traits in terms of behaviors that “champion leaders” demonstrate, it might look something like this:

    Competitiveness: Willing to do whatever it takes – without compromising ethics or sacrificing others – to achieve success. Taking smart risks and bouncing back quickly from failure. Constantly surveying the competitive landscape, knowing where you stand relative to the competition and anticipating competitors’ next moves.

    Confidence: Self-motivated and driven internally. Standing by decisions, yet comfortable admitting mistakes and failures. Unafraid to make unpopular choices and disagree. Standing up for beliefs. Staying the course even when faced with obstacles.

    Composure: Staying cool under pressure. Controlling behavior and actions when faced with stress. Able to function effectively – or even perform better – in tense situations.

    Focus: Always keeping sight of the goal and taking purposeful action to achieve that goal. Able to rally others around a common goal. Eliminating roadblocks, obstacles and distractions that get in the way of success. Knowing when to stay the course – and when to change direction.

    How do your company’s leaders stack up against these traits?

    ©2006 The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved. www.TheLoyaltyGroup.com

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