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What are your leadership personality traits? Pick only two.

Paul Maritz was recently interviewed for a regular column in Sunday editions of the New York Times called "Corner Office", which regularly asks questions of prominent business leaders about their management style and thoughts on hiring.  It's a fascinating column which I recommend (column RSS subscription link). If you don't know Paul Maritz, he is currently the President and CEO of vmware and previously was at Microsoft, ending his 14 career there as a member of the five-person Executive Committee and as VP of the Platform Strategy and Developer Group.

I found there were a number of nuggets in the interview worth passing on:

  • On leadership style: "I’ve learned that you only really get the best out of other people when you do things in a positive way. There are negative styles of leadership, where you do things by critiquing and criticizing and terrifying other people. But in the final analysis, it doesn’t get the best out of people and it doesn’t breed loyalty..We're going to run into problems.  We're going to make mistakes.  And when that happens, you have to ask people to help you and to overlook the fact that you've messed up."
  • On hiring: "First of all, you want to make sure that people have the necessary intellectual skills to do the job. Second, you want to see if people have a track record of actually getting stuff done. Then, third, you want to look for people who are thoughtful, and that ties into learning and being self-aware."
  • On successful groups: "At the risk of oversimplifying, I think that in any great leadership team, you find at least four personalities, and you never find all four of those personalities in a single person.

    1. You need to have somebody who is a strategist or visionary, who sets the goals for where the organization needs to go.
    2. You need to have somebody who is the classic manager — somebody who takes care of the organization, in terms of making sure that everybody knows what they need to do and making sure that tasks are broken up into manageable actions and how they’re going to be measured.
    3. You need a champion for the customer, because you are trying to translate your product into something that customers are going to pay for. So it’s important to have somebody who empathizes and understands how customers will see it. I’ve seen many endeavors fail because people weren’t able to connect the strategy to the way the customers would see the issue.
    4. Then, lastly, you need the enforcer. You need somebody who says: “We’ve stared at this issue long enough. We’re not going to stare at it anymore. We’re going to do something about it. We’re going to make a decision. We’re going to deal with whatever conflict we have.”

Interestingly enough, Paul stated that he had rarely met anyone who embodied more than two of those personality traits "And really great teams are where you have a group of people who provide those functions and who respect each other and, equally importantly, both know who they are and who they are not."

It requires self-knowledge and confidence to truly know which personality traits are part of your authentic leadership style and then surround yourself (or build teams with) with fellow leaders which build a complete set of competencies.  While you can get lost amidst the sea of self-assessment tools available on the web, I suspect if you think deeply about your successful team experiences, the key players, and your role on the team, your own personality strengths will become clear.  And despite the temptation, pick only two!