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10 Character Traits of Today's Leaders

The great transformations in the history of humankind began with a vision -- a powerful vision that inspired and engaged people to collectively transform their reality. We have always had visionary people in our world -- some have used their vision for the good of all -- others for greed, exclusion and destruction. I write about people who put their vision and values to work for the good of all. As I move around the world interviewing people who have successfully put their vision and values to work, it feels like I am always talking to the same person. Although they are highly diverse and unique in their own right, they embrace some shared core values and perceptions -- a way of looking at life -- that transcends time, culture, ethnic origins, geography, institutions, and circumstances.

These visionaries share common attitudes:

How they see the world: They share a sense of responsibility beyond their own lives. They take responsibility for the world they live in and are committed to making it better. They share a characteristic I call "practical optimism" -- although they clearly perceive current reality, they unflinchingly confront it. They have a deep belief that any challenge can be overcome. Their visions are large, deep, and unaffected by cynicism.

How they treat people: They share a deep faith in people -- their capabilities, potential, and their basic goodness. Interpersonal relationships are precious to them and at the heart of everything they do. They therefore lead their lives, organizations and communities with a reverence for all human relationships.

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How they make decisions: They feel deeply about things. They respect the knowledge and judgment of others; yet after listening to others, they trust their own intuition. They seem to make decisions with their heart as well as their mind; when their logic and their feelings are at odds -- they go with their heart.

How they build teams: They understand that we are all flawed; nevertheless, they focus on people's talents and strengths. They build teams that fill our weak spots, allowing us to focus on our strengths and allowing others to compliment us with theirs. They understand the value of collaboration and cooperation in accomplishing goals, getting superior results, and fulfilling our basic human desire for a sense of belonging.

How they use creativity: They allow creativity to soar. They share a spirit of invention, believing that any breakthrough idea or product requires an environment that fosters diverse perspectives, experimentation, risk, and play.

How they act: They are out of step with the norm, ahead of their time. They succeed not because they lead us to reconcile ourselves with our current reality, but because they help us to see we can change it. They share a sense of freedom -- freedom to choose their own path and an inability to accept conformity. As Joseph Campbell said, they "follow their bliss."

How they respond to "failure": They are all courageous and resilient. They have all faced tremendous challenges, made lots of mistakes, and "failed" many times. They have also been able to learn from their mistakes so they bounce back quicker, stronger, and wiser. They use their lessons learned to transform their vision into reality.

How they deal with "fear": They stay focused on their purpose, vision and values. When feelings of insecurity and anxiousness emerge, (and they often do) these visionaries use their compelling vision to lift their minds to their higher purpose. They use their values to remind them of what is truly important in life.

How they learn and grow: They have an insatiable appetite for new information and different perspectives. They look to everyone and every situation to learn and grow. They are multidimensional -- deeply involved in and with their family, their community, the arts, and the environment, as well as their work. They derive their knowledge and wisdom from all these sources, so their diverse experiences provide them with a rich array of choices and ideas.

How they are anchored: They all believe they are a part of something much greater and grander than themselves. Some call it God, some call it an "invisible wholeness," and others refer to it as a "field of energy." Regardless of what they call it, they sense the deep connection between everyone and everything. They therefore, make decisions and take actions in light of their impact on the world. They feel deeply connected to a higher purpose and a higher power and they see their work as an expression this belief.


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