What it takes to be a leader….in the United States, France or Iraq

I recently had the opportunity to hear Bernard Bourigeaud, founder and former CEO of Atos Origin, speak about the qualities that he believes are most important for leaders to have.  I smiled when he said that he “only cares about three things: integrity, loyalty and courage.”

Is your resume important?  Of course it is!  You can’t even get an interview without the right skills to do the job AND the ability to communicate those skills on paper.

However, the more accomplished you become, the more your values and behavior are used to set you apart from other qualified executives.

Bourigeaud, who is from France, also values the ability of his leaders to influence others.  In fact, he attributes part of his own success to understanding that influence begins behind the scenes with each stakeholder, not just at the deciding board meeting.  Many of these same lessons can be seen in action on the battle field.

Retired brigadier general Thomas Kolditz, in his book “In Extremis Leadership,” shows how extreme life-and-death situations can offer profound lessons for leaders in any setting.  One of these lessons, whether learned in Iraq or your boardroom, is to be candid. In difficult times, people gravitate to authentic leaders and authentic leaders are honest….and encourage those around them to be honest in return.

When I heard Kolditz speak a couple of years ago, I shared many of these lessons with friends.  Here are two of my favorite points from his talk that I’m sharing with you from a small handwritten note that I have carried with me the past two years:

  • Stamina is earned and sanity is a byproduct.  Fitness matters and prepares clients for mental fitness.
  • Dangerous situations never last long…development comes from reflection afterwards and visualization in advance.

The moderator at the event two years ago was Marshall Goldsmith, a recognized expert in global leadership.  Goldsmith’s book, “Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It,” had just been released.

Goldsmith believes that we develop leadership qualities from effort and practice.  However, he warned that our default reaction in life is not to experience happiness or meaning.  It is to experience inertia. Therefore,  we need to create an environment supportive of our efforts in order to realize our full potential as leaders and to be happy.

So, I’ll leave you with these thoughts.

Go forth and practice integrity, loyalty, courage, influence and honesty!  And I’m pretty sure you’ll find you have your Mojo, too!

I think you’ll agree that this story about UB’s friend Reggie Sanders does exactly that!


One response to “What it takes to be a leader….in the United States, France or Iraq

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