The evolution of a business leader


FT Advisor | November 13, 2019

The FT Adviser article, "The evolution of a business leader," was written by Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Anthony Abbatiello on the attributes found in the best leaders. The article is excerpted below.

The founding chief executive was clever and charismatic.

He saw opportunity and grabbed it by the throat. He inspired followers and dismissed naysayers.

Within years, that confidence led to outsized success. Investors flooded in and employee numbers swelled.  

Then the music stopped.

It became clear that the boldness that was once so attractive translated into ill-advised (if not illegal) transactions, outrageous self-dealing or a toxic corporate culture.

As the excruciating details of the founder’s foibles came to light, billions of dollars in market value evaporated.

If this storyline sounds familiar, it is because it is.

The personality traits that make top entrepreneurs so good at launching companies are also the ones that can inhibit them from sustained success.

As a result, the rise and fall of the brilliant-yet-flawed founder is a narrative that plays out regularly, particularly as the population of unicorns, or start-ups valued at $1bn (£0.8bn) and above, grows.

Groundbreaking founders typically embody four core qualities that are essential to exceptional leadership: they are disruptive, unafraid of risk, have a heroic streak that inspires followers and an ability to galvanise those followers into action.

What many founders lack, however, are four opposing and equally important ‘quiet’ traits: pragmatism, caution, humility and a propensity for collaboration.

These characteristics are not necessarily exciting or headline-making, but they provide valuable ballast for fast-growing organisations.

To read the full article, click here.

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The evolution of a business leader