The Single Most Important Characteristic of Leaders

Jennifer Eggers with Jennifer Dyer, founder of Yappa, at Drexel University.

Jennifer Eggers with Jennifer Dyer, founder of Yappa, at Drexel University.

I recently had the honor of closing Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business’s Executive MBA Alumni Summit.

I realized that the audience would be full of people with enough leadership potential to have their MBA paid for by a company and enough stick-to-it-iveness to get that work done while juggling high powered jobs, kids, family and other commitments. These were not only highly educated people, they were no strangers to the latest and greatest leadership thinking.

The talk was entitled: Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back and was intended to feature some of the work coming out in my new book later this summer and how resilience is the single most important characteristic of leaders today and no one is talking about it. Somehow, I missed the memo that I was the closing speaker. That came with a responsibility to wrap up the conference with a neat little bow on it that links things together. The pressure was on and as the conference began, I had no idea how I would pull that off.

What I witnessed that day between the Dean’s kick-off in the morning and the speaker before me, was nothing short of magical. All of us, in a strange twist of fate, happened to be women. And completely unplanned, a theme emerged. We heard Deloitte’s, Brenna Sniderman talk about digital transformation and how to make that happen, PWC Partner Deanna Bryne and Kimberly Tiedeken talk about unconscious bias and how to play an unlikely leadership role in blasting it when you see it. We heard Kate White, former Editor-In-Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine talk about paving her way as a woman in a male-dominated publishing industry, and we heard Jennifer Dyer, the first African woman to take a company public, speak about carving her own path with a process that flew directly in the face of traditional Wall Street IPOs.

The theme that emerged was somewhere between ‘take the road less traveled’, ‘I did it my way’, and being a badass. The incredibly magical part of it was watching speaker after speaker from fields as diverse as Finance, Human Resources, Entrepreneurs and consulting firms ALL talk about doing things differently… to ‘blaze the trail’ and step into the kind of leadership required, no matter what it looks like. It was a day about doing the unexpected. About turning ‘no’ into ‘yes’ and about not giving up until it does. About flying in the face of the way things have always been done, and about making a contribution to the world come hell or high water when conventional wisdom says you can’t. About being a pioneer in a space that didn’t exist before. Closing that conference was easy because it was about me too.

It’s the same with creating alignment. Alignment, critical for creating really strong resilient, adaptive organizations, flies in the face of conventional wisdom too. It flies in the face of a corporate tradition that says the guy at the top has the power. It catches hold and doesn’t let go when organizations learn to harness the power of having everyone on the same page with a clear set of priorities that drive strategy. And it equips organizations to be resilient when the individuals in that organization are supported and taught to build individual resilience frameworks so both they AND their organizations can come back stronger and more effective when disruption happens.

You cannot build a resilient organization without resilient individuals AND alignment.

What I learned at Drexel was to talk more about resilience. About how to equip individuals so they can get aligned and deliver more than they ever have before. About how to create the kind of alignment that equips people and companies of any size to change the world. Because if, in fact, resilience is the single most important characteristic of leaders today, the world can’t live without it. Because leaving their unique and badass mark on the world was the message of every speaker who came before me that day. It is a message for our times and a message every leader needs to hear, regardless of their generation. And at LeaderShift, we are all in.   

 If you would like to learn more about building resilient leaders and organizations or talk about how to create alignment, call us. It’s what we do.

LeaderShift Insights aligns people, talent and structure to drive strategy. Building resilience is just the beginning.