The CEO of the 21st Century
by Mark Goulston

What are the qualities and characteristics that help create successful leaders? Consider this four-point plan.

With business leaders' public -- and private -- behavior coming under increasing scrutiny, it's becoming nearly impossible to avoid getting caught in a lie. Few things detract more from your credibility and the respect of your colleagues and peers than being called on the carpet to deflect accusations and defend an untruth. Can leaders who lapse learn how to be truthful in words and honorable in deeds? Of course they can.

If you're fortunate, you'll meet people over the course of your career who exceed your expectations in every way. When you work or spend time with them, you find yourself wanting to be a better person. You put a lid on your neuroses (which might cause you to coax others to go easy on you because you are wracked with worry) and on your sense of entitlement (which can drive you to manipulate others into doing what you want through intimidation). And you work well.

Why do we try to be the best that we can be with such people? Given the choice between instant gratification and the lasting satisfaction of earning the esteem of someone you respect and admire, all but the most myopic of us would choose the latter.

What would happen to your leadership effectiveness if you became more like the people from whom others actively seek acceptance and support? How productive would your teammates and peers become if they all felt that having you as a leader represented the rare opportunity to work with someone that people inside and outside the company admire? How much harder would people work if they were inspired and motivated by the privilege of your adamant faith in their skills?

If you answered anything less than an enthusiastically positive response to those questions, imagine the effect on people if you acted in a manner that was the polar opposite of this.

How motivated would your colleagues be if you attacked, blamed, demeaned, and embarrassed them and yourself? Perhaps they'd work hard in the short run because of fear or even resentment. Your organization might squeeze a winning quarter out of intimidation, but without inspiration you will never build a winning company.

What are the qualities that leaders should aspire to in order to earn, deserve, and command respect? Look no further than a mentor whose belief in you made you want to give your best shot in your professional and personal life. Chances are they possessed the following four attributes:

  • The judgment to know the right thing to do.

  • The integrity to do it.

  • The character to stand up to those who don't.

  • The courage to stop those who won't.

If you consistently practice and develop these qualities in your professional and personal life, you will accrue an additional benefit beyond getting the best out of your peers and colleagues, as well as your family. You will develop wisdom. With that you will be able to distinguish what's important in life, what's worth fighting for -- even dying for -- and what makes up a life that's worth living.

Usable Insight: Command respect, and people will beat a path to your door. Demand obedience, and sooner or later they'll head for the exits.

Mark Goulston, M.D. is a specialist in Emotional Intelligence and heads Sherwood's Executive Coaching, Team Building and Sales Training practices. For more information visit: Contact Mark at:

Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2004 by Mark Goulston. All rights reserved.

Current Issue - Archives - CEO Links - News - Conferences - Recommended Reading