What are the three most important aspects of leadership?
It can seem challenging to distill such an expansive topic into three core aspects, but doing so helps highlight critical responsibilities and skills for leaders.
Himanshu Palsule is the CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand, a learning management software company with 4,000 global employees. The company is a leader in managing talent and upskilling, which means Himanshu faces leadership and changes in the world of work every day. He has a front-row seat to what it takes to lead in today’s fast-paced environment. Himanshu believes there are three core aspects of leadership:
Himanshu says this is the most crucial aspect of leadership. More important than a person’s intelligence or IQ is their curiosity. Great leaders are curious about everything, from how their customers move through the journey to how their industry is changing and how their company can grow. Intellectual curiosity means constantly asking questions and looking for new answers. People who excel in this area continually get outside their bubbles to find new ideas and possibilities. Curiosity also expands to areas outside a leader’s typical work responsibilities. Himanshu is fascinated with quantum physics—a field that isn’t directly related to his work but allows him to learn and expand his knowledge in other areas, making him a better leader. He believes all leaders need to be curious and passionate about a topic outside their usual scope of work.
To succeed, leaders need to be aware of their surroundings and who helps them grow. Himanshu says leaders have to be in the moment, no matter if they are talking to a fellow executive, an employee, or the doorman. Everyone plays a role in their success, and great leaders are aware of the people around them and show respect and care. Himanshu holds many of his interviews in restaurants over lunch for opportunities to gauge situational awareness. There’s a story that Warren Buffett used to tip the waiter to mess up someone’s order to see how they would react. Ordering eggs but getting pancakes is a test of how someone acknowledges and treats the people around them.
Being a leader often means standing alone and being willing to advocate for something you believe in. Himanshu says leaders need the ability to be the lone voice saying no—to their team, their customers, or the board. Leaders must have a strong belief system and be willing to keep moving forward even when they are pushed and criticized. The need for managerial courage will only increase in the future of work, and leaders have to hold strong in the face of challenges.
Himanshu considers these three aspects in every interview and conversation he has with leaders and potential leaders. As leaders develop these three crucial aspects of leadership, they set themselves to become well-rounded and future-ready leaders, no matter what situations arise.
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