As managers climb up the management tree they need to ask themselves how far can my leadership go?  Could I become a general manager or even a CEO?  To help answer this question you need to see how much leadership is in your DNA and how much you are prepared to commit to rectify shortfalls.

My interest in leadership stemmed from a chance encounter with the book “Shackleton way” by Margot Morell and Stephanie Capparell and an unplanned stopover in KL.  In the wet monsoon season, I was incarcerated in my hotel room creating a model that described Shackleton’s successful leadership.  Subsequently I then studied other leaders of the past and noted that their success or failure were predicted by the model.

This model was then amended as a result of a leadership think tank.  It emerged that one needs to separate those leadership traits that need to be in your DNA from those skills that can be learnt. We came up with eight traits that need to be in your DNA and fifteen skills that can be learnt. The eight traits are:

People focused traits 1.   Integrity and honesty
2.   “Love thy neighbour as thyself”
3.   Self-awareness and self-regulation
Getting the right things done traits 4.   Abundance of positive energy
5.   Decision making and risk taking
6.   Seeing future opportunities
Handling change traits 7.   Excel in a crisis
8.   Learning agility


It is my belief that many leaders fail, when managing large enterprises, because some of the eight traits that needed to be in their DNA were absent.  They may have been successful managing smaller teams because their flaws were not fully exposed. Some very famous leaders, such as Sir Winston Churchill, were flawed because some of these traits were absent or compromised. In Churchill’s case, he was flawed in ‘love they neighbour as thyself’ and in self-awareness, whilst the other six traits were clearly in his DNA.

This view is consistent with the early days of the theories into evolution.  It was argued by the evolutionist, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck , in 1809, that skills, knowledge and traits are passed down generation by generation through the DNA that we share (nature).  We are then influenced in our formative years by our family, peers and teachers (nurture) arriving at a place where our collection of traits make us leadership material or not.

To excel as a leader of a large team or organisation you need these eight traits in place. In Jack Welch’s terminology, these traits are “tickets to the game” a given, a must have.  Leaders need to make sure you do not compromise these traits for your leadership will suffer.

For leaders of small teams missing one or two of these eight traits is not critical and they can still be a successful team leader.  The key is to limit the extent of the team they need to manage.   To read about the eight traits purchase my short paper.