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Traits of an Evergreen Leader

It was five years ago that my first book, The Leader’s Guide to Turbulent Times was published. And it was just yesterday that a colleague pointed to a section in the book that she found valuable, but that I had lost sight of.

As I reread that section, I was startled to find that what I wrote in the summer of 2014 is even more relevant today. And so, in this blog, I’m going to resurface those thoughts.

But first, some context!

In this book, I attempted to articulate the traits of leaders that were successful in this uncertain place that we find ourselves in. This place of rapid and unpredictable change. Of globalization. Of uncertainty. Of increasing pressure to do more with fewer resources. Of a workplace filled with diversity.

My insights in the book were a result of my consulting work, where I worked with hundreds of leaders across dozens of organizations as we implemented make or break changes. It was clear to me that leadership mattered. In fact, it was the one thing that mattered most of all.

It was also clear to me that our old models of leadership were better suited for a different age, one in which stability was the goal, where homogeneity in the workforce was the norm and where maintaining was the task and marginal improvements on the status quo was the charge.

As I observed those leaders who were excelling in this changed environment, themes began to emerge. And what I saw in leadership that worked was far different than what had been taught in business school or demanded with past employers. They were collaborating rather than competing, compelling rather than commanding, guiding versus directing, creating rather than continual problem solving.

And so yesterday, as I reread my insights from 2014, I found that they continue to ring true. So today, I’ll share them with you, hoping they might provide some affirmation, insight and value.

Here they are, with only a few more sentences to add clarity.

Leaders who lead well today are:

1. Firmly grounded and aware of who they are as a leader. Their values guide them, their strengths empower them and their passions fuel them. Self-awareness is not about narcissism, but is about being aware of how they show up, what their impact is on others and when they are at their best. It is also about knowing weaknesses, blind spots and personal pitfalls – so that they can be avoided or mitigated.

2. Able to envision and create better futures. They can create within organizations, bringing new products, services, processes or ways of working together into being.

3. Agile in their approach – willing to try new things, comfortable with small failures as the price for the bigger win, untethered by the current restraints.

4. Able to provide clarity and direction in the midst of uncertainty. They do this not because they KNOW the way, but because they are willing to FIND the way, by taking measured steps toward a defined end point.

5. Collaborative and willing to engage others in creating better futures. Knowing that collaborating with others results in better and richer outcomes.

6. Able to build strong teams. They know that creativity and collaboration only happens in strong teams. They create a psychologically healthy environment where risks can be taken, ideas shared and support provided. They know that healthy teams produce high results – and that nurturing healthy teams is what leaders are charged to do.

7. Continual learners who are skilled at developing themselves and those they lead. They are leaders who see learning opportunities daily – and not just when the company offers a seminar or a workshop.

8. Globally minded – recognizing that this is an interconnected world, that diversity is a business imperative, not a “nice thing to do”. Diversity brings richness, depth, and innovation.

9. Able to shed what is no longer needed.A They are clear on priorities and ruthlessly eliminate the frivolous, the fruitless and the fat from their life.

10. Insist on time to plan, reflect, and think – in other words, to slow down in order to go faster in the right direction. They are not going too fast to refuel, not arriving quickly and finding that where they have landed in the wrong place.

11. Practice gratitude – and share their gratitude.

Even though I attempt to practice these daily, it is always a stretch. But keeping them in front of me provides guidance, inspiration and motivation to be the best leader I can be.

If you’d like to explore how Evergreen Leadership can help your leaders develop the skills most relevant to today, book some time to talk at

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