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The Common Traits of Exceptional Leaders — A Live Case Study

The Common Traits of Exceptional Leaders — A Live Case Study

by Sofia Zafeiri

For a significant period of my student life and as a Communications Professional, I’ve been wondering which personality traits are the ones that I need to work on to make myself not only stand out from the crowd but to thrive. On a recent Friday night, I had the opportunity to meet with a Global Executive from one of the world’s largest financial organizations.

Not long after we sat down, Stephan (the Executive) and I started discussing my experiences while job hunting and getting into more detail about the Executive’s approach to hiring new and young professionals.

He said, “I want to hire great people. Those who are better than me. And then, I want to give them tasks and the freedom to learn and do their own thing. I need to know they succeed in their personal lives as well as their professional ones. Only then am I a proud leader.”

That rang a bell. A few months back, I was desperately looking for inspiration and some answers to my endless questions. So I asked one of my professors (also a CCO of a global conglomerate) to be my mentor. An invitation that weirdly enough, he happily accepted. I remembered in our first meeting; he said the exact same thing as Stephan.

In fact, I distinctly remember him admitting, “I am not good at everything. But I know what my weaknesses are, and I know how to hire great people. We work as a team, and there are members of my staff that are much smarter and more current than I am.”

In an ocean of good and bad business leaders, hearing an amazing professor and well-respected business person saying what he did, astounded me, to say the least.

For the rest of the night on that rooftop, my wired brain was going back and forth comparing the two leaders. The similarities were plenty. By the end of the evening and on my way back home, I tried to summarize the new data.


In other words,

  • They make people feel great about themselves
  • They know their weaknesses and are open to them
  • They know how to hire people who are better than them at particular things
  • They measure the strengths of their employees, give them tasks, and let them “swim” while they provide help and support when needed
  • They acknowledge the inner balance that a family life has to offer

Although their careers are imperative to them, they both valued their time with their families.

  • They are genuinely interested in people

It doesn’t matter if the new acquaintances are younger or entry-level professionals. A good leader knows that the future is in the eye of the beholder.

At the end of the day, great leaders create an army of loyal employees and friends around them who will be more than willing to help them in a time of need.

What type of leader do you aspire to be?

About the Author

Sofia Zafeiri is the Social Media Coordinator at IIL. She graduated from NYU with a Ms in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Before moving to New York City, she worked for a variety of organizations in Europe.

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