The 7 Key Attributes of Successful New Leaders

Consider these 7 Key Attributes of Successful New Leaders to give yourself a running start. E xisting leaders will also benefit from reading along and making course corrections where necessary.


A number of my clients and colleagues have recently ascended to greater positions of leadership at the top ranks of their companies. There’s suddenly even more to do, but have you paused long enough to consider how you should start?

Do you need to do anything differently?

1. Credibility is Foremost

Without it, you’ll look over your shoulder and find no one there. You need to do it by being committed to learning, being humble about what you don’t know and proving to your team that you’re building a transparent and collaborative organization — and they are a critical part of it.

Roll up your sleeves and learn before barking out orders.

2. Communication is Leadership

There’s no substitute, you can’t ignore it and you can’t do too much of it.

Uncertainty and ambiguity are genuine obstacles for your teammates. Most of us fill the void of uncertainly with monsters and hobgoblins, fearful that the worst is upon us since we don’t know otherwise.

Give me the real news, even if it’s bad.

Don’t make me guess.

I’m terrible at it. I only think the worst … and probably do my worst.

If I can trust you to tell me the unvarnished truth, I’m with you all the way.

[pullquote]Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not “making friends and influencing people”, that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. ~ Peter Drucker[/pullquote]

3. Don’t Kill the Messenger

As a corollary to Rule #2, you’ll need to create a penalty-free environment by encouraging forthright but respectful conversation.

Tell everyone to be direct.

Say it, good or bad.

Don’t keep secrets.

You’ll be better off if you tell the truth, however painful, than burying secrets in the back yard.

4. Dedication Trumps Inexperience. Entitlement is Death!

Your colleagues want to see you’re dedicated — like the pig that provides the bacon, not the chicken laying eggs.

A sense of entitlement is a noxious odor that will scuttle your plans, and trust me on this, even a whiff of this scent can be fatal. See rule #1, above.

Some of you may be already riding this bus.

If so, get off at this stop. You’ll find your self at the bottom of a difficult hill and you’ll need to slog your way back up.

There won’t be many hands to help you up this hill so be prepared for some heavy lifting.

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For emerging leaders, don’t be tempted to get on this entitlement bus.

If you’re smart, you’ll sneak into the motor pool one night and hook this bus up to some explosives. (On a related note, I share my conviction that a sense of entitlement among young family scions is at the heart of why so few family businesses make it to the third generation.)

5. Be Loyal to Your People

Not blind, not stupid, but loyal to their passions and commitment.

Give them room to fall — to fail even.

Encourage them to experiment … and let them know you’ll help them get back up if they’ve learned from the experience and agree to redouble their efforts the next time.

6. Flexibility is Underrated

I’ve frequently touted flexibility as a critical leadership skill and have described how you can build flexibility into your company DNA.

It’s a magic elixir for new or emerging leaders.

It doesn’t mean you should be a doormat or a windsock.

It does mean you should avoid commitments, particularly long and expensive ones, that don’t have an escape hatch.



Tread lightly until you’ve mastered the recipe … and take this attribute with you everywhere you go.

7. Get Some Early Wins

Even if you have to pick some low-hanging fruit, show your team they can win with you.

Show them that you’ll live and die for them and that if everyone gets in the right seat on the bus, good things will happen.

Let’s Summarize

As a leader, you should embrace these simple yet powerful principles to strengthen your position as the head or your organization or business unit.

  • Build an insurmountable mound of credibility.

  • Communicate. Endlessly.

  • Listen carefully. Always.

  • Create a penalty-free environment. Everyone speaks freely.

  • Be Dedicated. Get Dedicated. Prove it every day.

  • Be loyal and reward loyalty.

  • Be eminently flexible. You’ll win far more often than not.

  • Get some early wins. Show that you’re here to stay.

Do all this while having fun and celebrating your family and community … and you’ll never work another day in your life.

Question: What have I missed? Are there other attributes you believe are critical to your success? Be sure to visit our Facebook Page or @Exkalibur on Twitter to share your thoughts and comments.

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