CEO Shoptalk – Traits of Leaders

Big Red Car here on a beautiful, sunny Thursday. Ahhh, on Earth as it is in Texas, y’all.

So, I’m at church on Sunday listening to the sermon – I love and desperately need a good sermon – and it inspires me to think about some of the traits of great leaders – not “good” GREAT!

I come up with four traits which seem to separate the great from the good and the mediocre.

What are they, Big Red Car?

They are compassion, kindness, humility, and patience.


Compassion is the feeling of deep sympathy a person has when they are confronted with a victim of misfortune. It triggers a call to action to alleviate that suffering.

It sends the message: “You are not alone. I am here with you.”

There is a generosity of both spirit and action to compassion that is different than simple empathy. Empathy is an intellectual identification with another, a vicarious sense, and their feelings, thoughts, attitudes.

Empathy is static. Compassion is dynamic. Great leaders are great acters. They do something about suffering, something more than just being sympathetic or empathetic.


Kindness is rooted in simple goodness and decency. It is neither timid nor weak. It is the foundation for compassion, humility, and patience.

Kindness is like a scent in the air encompassing all that we think, say, and do. It is an attitude toward others. To me, the best example of kindness is Mr. Rogers.

Kindness lowers the volume, smooths out the rough edges, and provides assurance to the troubled. It is like compassion in that it says, “I am here with you. You are not alone.”

Can there be a sound argument against kindness?


Humility is the opposite of pridefulness. A prideful person attributes their achievements solely to their own efforts and skills while a humble person reflects the credit toward others.

As a leader this is at the center of team building. There is no more important test of leadership than the ability to assemble, organize, inspire, and work with a team.

Pride is boastful and centered on self. Humility is wise in honoring and rewarding others, thereby reflecting the credit for accomplishments on others.

The humble leader looks at the team and says, “Well played, y’all! You did this!”

The prideful leader holds the mirror up to himself and says, “Look at me. I did this.”

The humble leader’s actions bring the team closer, makes them more cohesive. By rewarding performance, the humble leader provides an exemplar for the entire company. Whatever behaviors we reward will be repeated.


Patience is even-tempered diligence and steady perseverance. It is both a trait and a skill.

The patient leader plans carefully and maintains the same level of care during the execution phase.

Patience defeats restlessness, irritation, impulsiveness, nervousness, complaining, and the loss of one’s temper.

Many leaders are not naturally patient, but have to practice patience, have to discipline themselves to be patient.

A team adopts the traits of its leader. If you are patient, your team will be patient.


I have always preached that power is not “given,”; rather, it is a mantle that a leader must cloak themselves in. Power is taken.

You are not the CEO until you tell yourself you are the CEO.

Along the same path, these traits – compassion, kindness, humility, patience – can only be embraced and applied by people who are comfortable with being powerful (in a leadership sense). The most powerful leaders often do not deploy their power. Only a powerful leader can choose not to use their power. Real power is rooted in the promise of its use rather than its actual use.

This is you comfortable with your power as the King of the Jungle.

I am compassionate. I am kind. I am humble. I am patient. I AM STILL THE KING OF THE DAMN JUNGLE! 

More can be accomplished while doing less by artfully deploying these traits, not in a faux manner, but in a genuine, authentic manner. It is a skill which grows with use.

Ponder this. If it works for you, deploy the wisdom.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good to your sweet selves.