The most successful leaders have one thing in common, and it’s not what most would think. It’s not solid communication skills or strategic thinking; it’s not even having grace-under-fire. This quiz can determine if you possess this essential trait.
Whether it’s leading projects, functional teams, large corporations, and institutions or countries, we all want to think we are born leaders, or at least we’ve developed the skills and know-how to be a great leader. The best leaders all have one thing in common, a trait that can make or break their effectiveness and how they impact others.
What’s the trait? Genuine stakeholder best interest.
The best and most powerful leaders understand that their interests, bias, and personal agendas cannot factor into their decision making. They lack self-focus, selfishness, and self-adulation. They have one goal in mind, a genuine interest in helping their stakeholders — whether their stakeholders are project or functional teams, company employees, customers, or constituents.
So how do leaders or those seeking good leadership ensure that this trait is present? There are some vital questions that leaders can honestly ask themself and some that those seeking leaders can ask, analyze, and weigh carefully. With these questions, the key is being truly honest when you answer these questions. Answer the questions based on your past and current self, not based on how you want to be or how you want or believe others to see you. It’s only in being honest that you can improve as a leader.
Quiz for existing leaders
If you’re in a leadership position or capacity — and your goal is to be an authentic leader whose sole focus is your stakeholder’s needs, ask yourself these questions.
- When I think of being a leader, my first thought is how this can benefit my career? Yes or No
- I care more about what others think of me than my stakeholders. Yes or No
- I make decisions that are popular with my stakeholders, even if it won’t help them or might hurt them. Yes or No
- How something will impact me, my needs, or my goals factors into my actions or decisions. Yes or No
- Before taking on a role, project, activity, I link it back to my personal agendas. Yes or No
- I put the needs of my most influential, powerful, or personal relationships ahead of the majority. Yes or No
- My opinion weighs heavily on the decisions that I make for my stakeholders. Yes or No
- I ask my peers, other experts, or stakeholders for their opinions, yet, my own education or experience in situations often outweighs theirs. Yes or No
- The feeling of being in charge is often intoxicating and drives my need to be a leader. Yes or No.
- I struggle to suppress my personal beliefs, goals, and career aspirations to make the necessary decisions in my stakeholder’s best interests.
- I’ve said or done things that have hurt others but believe it to be acceptable as it was popular or well-received by most. Yes or No
If you answered yes to most or even half of these questions, odds are, you’re not ready to be a leader and will likely end up failing to meet your stakeholder’s needs. If you answered yes to less than half of these questions, you simply could benefit from some soul searching and potentially leadership coaching. This will depend on which questions you answered ‘yes’ to. Some of these questions will have a high weighting and impact on your ability to lead others effectively. Being cut out for a leadership role in any capacity requires you to put yourself last and your stakeholders first at all times.
Quiz for those looking to hire or appoint leaders
When looking to hire or appoint a leader in any capacity, genuine stakeholder focus is vital. This also means your personal agenda or gain cannot factor into your leadership candidate decision-making. If you’re looking for a candidate that meets your own needs ahead of your team, company, organization, region, or country, then you’ve failed your stakeholders as well — and, in due time, the results will show exactly that.
Before you narrow down leadership candidates, ask yourself these questions.
- When interviewing or hiring, I think about how the candidate can meet my personal, professional, financial, or political needs. Yes or No
- I look for candidates whom I don’t find intimidating. Yes or No
- Candidates who are well connected or can help further my career are often of higher interest. Yes or No
- I unnecessarily factor in politics, religion, gender, race, demographics, or other personal bias into my hiring decisions. Yes or No
- I often seek to fill a leadership role based on someone I know vs. the best candidates. Yes or No
- More often than not, I make a hiring decision before I’ve had a chance to understand the candidate fully. Yes or No
- Before the candidate has a chance to complete their interview or meeting with me, I’ve often made my decision. Yes or No
If you answered yes to most or even half of these questions, odds are, you’re not giving fair consideration to the leading candidate nor your stakeholders and are more self-focused. You’ll be more likely to fail to meet your stakeholder’s needs and end up seeking a replacement leadership candidate. This will likely become costly for stakeholders, other parties, and will ultimately impact your reliability and reputation. Depending on which questions you answered ‘yes’ to, if you answered yes to less than half of these questions, you could benefit from some introspection and potentially outside help with recruitment practices. Some of these questions will have a high weighting and impact your ability to attract, hire/appoint, and retain the best leaders who are genuinely stakeholder-focused.
The critical point here is that genuine and successful leaders not only understand the need to have a genuine best interest in their stakeholder’s needs; they live it with every decision, communication, and activity. They may not be perfect in other aspects, and most often, stakeholders can accept and forgive that — but the one trait they can often see through is a leader who is self-focused, selfish, and set on self-adulation. Stakeholders almost always know when a leader is not focused on meeting their needs. If you’re looking to be a leader, hire, or appoint a leader, success will rest on having this single most important trait.
Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is a recognized project management influencer, thought leader, a regular correspondent for PMI’s Projectified podcast, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership”. Moira has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes thought leadership content for top-tier publications and business blogs and oversees or writes sponsored content and software reviews on PMWorld 360 Magazine.