What makes a great leader?

I have completely fallen down on the job, blog-wise, because last week I was out of the office, attending a Time Warner women’s leadership conference. It lasted for four days, during which time I did not go outside, exercise at all or see much of my family. But the food was really good, which made the whole thing worthwhile.

All kidding aside, the conference gave me a lot to think about. First of all, you have to do a 360 evaluation, which is just corporate-speak for having the important people in your work life tell you how fabulous you are and/or all the ways in which you are, shall we say, not exactly measuring up. (These negative things are what are euphemistically called your “areas of opportunity,” which always cracks me up.)

Besides surviving my 360 and learning how to quite contentedly sit on my duff in the same room for hours on end, there were quite a few eye-opening moments. (There was also a Blackberry ban during the sessions, which was both wonderful and painful, like having a sore tooth removed.) The first and perhaps most important lesson is that people view effective leadership in all sorts of ways (duh) and the trick in any workplace that you are in charge of is to somehow put together a team of people who think you are without a doubt just the sort of leader they need. Then–and only then–will you get a glowing 360.

The women who attended this conference are fairly senior in Time Warner–we all run staffs or operations and many of us run households too, which is harder if you ask me. Anyway, the assumption is that in order to attend the conference, you already had to be a leader of some sort.

And yet we were so different. Some of us were talkative and outgoing; others quiet and introverted. Some were incredibly comfortable presenting to the group and in fact might even have been happy to perform a gymnastics routine at the front of the room if asked; others looked pained just to stand up and introduce themselves.

But presumably each of us has some sort of leadership skills, unless we all have been incredibly clever in choosing who we work with (see above).

And so I ask you: think about leaders you have known in your lives. What qualities made that person a great leader?

Stay tuned for the next installment of this blog, entitled The Day My Kids Read My 360 and Laughed Their Heads Off.

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