The Sept. 12, 2012, Vol. 27, No. 9, issue of The Costco Connection featured an interesting article about Denise Sullivan Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup Company.

She remarks about leadership attributes – four traits – that contributed to her success as CEO. Business consultant Jim C. Collins also refers to these attributes in his “Level  5 Leadership” model. These keys to success are humility, perseverance, an appetite to learn and close collaboration with teams. 

Denise is correct about the importance of humility and the ability of a leader to ensure he/she is not the smartest person in the room during meetings. Strong leaders’ teams generally are comprised of members who have expertise in various areas. Diverse mindsets aid in creating new ideas, challenging existing beliefs and building sound strategies. Effective leaders possess the ability to foster these new thoughts, and they create environments where team members are comfortable in expressing their ideas. 

It’s no surprise Denise suggests that a successful leader must have an augmented sense of perseverance. When there are challenges and obstacles, an effective CEO must continue to move ahead and adapt by adjusting strategies. Most importantly, a CEO must not give up and accept failure. He/she must learn from former mistakes and keep the team moving in the right direction.

I remember reading excerpts about Southwest Airlines, and recall how many times Herb Kelleher, the airline’s co-founder, Chair Emeritus and former CEO, had to push the government to approve its creation. In the face of repeated objection and hurdles, he persevered and changed his approach with new strategies that gained final approval.

I also agree with Denise that leaders (CEOs) must continue to learn and develop. A common thread I’ve found during CEO interviews is the multitude of personal development or biographical books they’ve read each year. They find ways to stay on top of trends, and most importantly, learn what their competition is doing (and not doing)!  Those aspiring to be a CEO should take these principles to heart. They must create a personal development plan, expand their library of books, understand what market changes are occurring, and learn about their competition.

Denise refers to the importance of a collaborative team environment as a cornerstone to a successful organization. As previously mentioned, having a team of knowledgeable people, challenging them to develop new ideas, and encouraging the group to share thoughts are crucial steps for any CEO to follow.

Think of an orchestra conductor. This concertmaster knows the strengths and weaknesses of his/her orchestra, the instruments, and how everyone must work together to bring the music to life.  Like conductors, CEOs must know their people, how their backgrounds can bring value to their organizations, and ensure everyone is harmoniously working together toward the agreed-upon goals.

Reach Stefan M. Werdegar, Vice President at Tyler & Company, at swerdegar@tylerandco.com or +1 512 329 2784.