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What is the most important characteristic of a leader?

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 170,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each Tuesday in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: What is the most important characteristic of a leader?

  • Sets a compelling vision: 30.56%
  • Motivational and inspiring: 28.26%
  • Listens actively: 20.28%
  • Knows people as individuals: 8.05%
  • Willing to take a hit to protect the team: 6.83%
  • Maintains a good work-life balance: 3.04%
  • Technically competent: 2.97%

Set direction and motivate. We expect leaders to set the direction for us, then inspire us and motivate us to achieve it. We also want them to listen to us along the journey. It’s encouraging to see technical competence is on the bottom of the list. A note for those of you focused on being the best technician in your organization to prove you’re a good leader: STOP. Your team can handle the technical and operational details. Your job is to lay out the path. That’s the reason you get paid the big bucks.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS and author of “One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.”