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Effective Executive Magazine:
The Necessary Traits of Exemplary Leadership
 
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This paper focuses on four traits that are frequently mentioned as the essential requisites for exemplary executive leadership: integrity, empathy, genuineness and humility. When all are present together in one person (but perhaps to varying degrees), the organization has a “wise” leader. Each is discussed with some examples and the ways in which one can work to make those traits robust in oneself. Wisdom, frequently conceptualized as the confluence of contradictory elements in decisions involving the contradictions between and among these elements, both undergirds these traits and produces them. Integrity is defined as “doing what is the right thing to do, not what you have the right to do”. Empathy is defined as the ability to sense the subtleties of others’ feelings, and place yourselves in their shoes. Genuineness is being authentic (as Stephen Covey opines, “seeking first to understand; then be understood”). Humility is understanding that your success always stands on the shoulders of others. Wisdom involves the application of these four traits and their continual cultivation.

   
Leadership traits and leadership competencies combine to define executive presence. Competencies are skills + knowledge. Since integrity is commonly thought of an essential leadership trait, let us begin with integrity. Terri Williams comments on integrity in The Economist beginning with a quote from Dwight Eisenhower.“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”