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Garnering High-Performance Leadership and Respectful Communication
Coverage from the 2017 BISA CEO Retreat
“Great leaders have two things in common: They are imperfect, and they are consciously aware of what they are good at, surrounding themselves with those who fill the void of what they’re not good at.”

That’s the view of Susan Lucia Annunzio, president and CEO of The Center for High Performance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Annunzio opened her keynote presentation at BISA’s CEO Retreat by outlining her view of the qualities of an impactful leader — and how one can become such a leader if they do not already have, or hone in, on the qualities listed.

One such quality is something you are simply born with, according to Annunzio. “Most good leaders are intuitive leaders,” she said.

Following your instincts — and having good instincts — helps distinguish you as a natural-born leader; you don’t have to try as hard to succeed. But with every lucky attribute, there is bound to be a downfall, and this, Annunzio says, is the unfortunate capability of being too insular. By relying on instinct, there is little awareness as to why you are a good leader. Those who have to work on their savvy business instincts look inward from time to time so to learn what does and does not work in their workplace. “Your default to success will only work 80 percent of the time,” Annunzio said.

By becoming a good leader, you also have the ability to make your company become an industry leader as well. The key step on this ladder isn’t the decisions you have, but, rather, the decisions you make, according to Annunzio.

In this sentiment, Annunzio calls upon what she calls the “Leadership Moment of Truth.” In short, this moment is a career-defining opportunity that will come around few, or only one, times. Further, two things you believe in happen at the same time and your one choice determines your entire career. Annunzio said that this is a courageous leap of faith in your career; there is no model or business plan that will outline exactly what outcome to expect. You must stand up for your beliefs against all odds.

With a decision as big as the one Annunzio mentions, she pointed out that the first leadership quality to disappear is typically how we treat people. And how we treat people is of utmost importance in any business if you want your company to grow and be successful. Leadership behaviors can kill high performance if negative, Annunzio said. The environment in which you plant the company seed to grow is something that absolutely needs to be considered in your Leadership Moment of Truth.

Throughout your personal career journey, however, other important leadership qualities must be honed in on and developed to advance both your company and yourself. Annunzio said there are two skills every good leader can have:
  1. The ability to listen
  2. The ability to ask questions
In order to lead, you must know what or who it is you’re leading. By asking clarifying, open-ended questions, you are able to gather the pertinent information and make decisions based on facts, thus getting off on the right foot to success. “You have to plan, not react,” Annunzio said.

To help do so, Annunzio led a discussion on how to stabilize your emotional brain. The “emotional brain” is the part that makes decisions based on a first-impression instinct before gathering the proper information needed. Finding ways to think rationally, calming yourself and determining the best course of action is crucial to stability. You must be an informed leader to be an informative one. “The only thing you can’t delegate is leadership,” Annunzio said.
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