Career Guide: Every Leader Needs This Quality

It is the difference between a leader and a great leader.

Today is a short one but to the point. Let’s talk professional growth and leadership. What makes someone a great leader or professional. I share the one true, tried & tested quality I found to be the true difference maker.


This tweet and it’s responses brought forth many philosophical discussions I have had at every company, at every point and junction in my career - what is the single most important quality of a leader?

Leaders are at their core problem solvers.

Military, Business, Technology, regardless of industry, leaders are looked upon in our hour of need as well as ensuring we continue to drive a venture towards success. So, to answer the question of what makes a leader great, you have to answer the question of what qualities make an individual a great problem solver? 🤔

You have your standard list of requirements:

  • Ability to understand the problem.

  • Understanding how to leverage scarce human and capital resources.

  • Experience dealing with such problems before is a plus.

  • Courage to make decisions.

  • Inspire people around them to think creatively.

  • Empowering those who are better at something than they are.

  • So, on…

In my opinion, the most important quality for a leader, in any capacity, is Retrospection.

ret·ro·spec·tion

/ˌretrəˈspekSHən/

noun

  1. the action of looking back on or reviewing past events or situations, especially those in one's own life.

    "he was disinclined to indulge in retrospection"

Successful problem solving is about constantly evaluating whether actions just taken had the intended effect; if not, where did things go wrong. Some of the greatest leaders I have worked for had this very quality. 🕵🏽‍♂️

One of my favorite Engineering Managers at Apple truly personified this quality. Our 1:1 were more than just “whats going on?”. We would actively spend time evaluating key events that had taken place in the past week and analyze what worked and what didn’t and how do we fix it for the future. Not only that, when a member of his team or extend team left, he would go beyond the “Nice working with you, good luck on your next venture”, he would take the time to meet up with them and always ask, “What can we do differently so that we don’t lose you or someone like you in the future? What can I do differently?”

So - if you are looking for an opportunity for growth get into a habit of self analysis and retrospection. 🙋🏽

How does one do that, practical?

I journal. I journal a lot. I spend, even a few minutes a day, bullet points, jotting down the key events in my personal & professional life. That gives me the opportunity to reflect on events that were impactful for me.

I use to laugh when someone would say that “I start every morning with writing in my journal” but, I am a believer. The intention of placing yourself in that mental state that I intend to analyze myself and my actions, journaling is quite effective. I have filled so many journals over the years.

In my most difficult release at Apple, dealing with several programs under my Program Management leadership, across the iOS and macOS ecosystem, journaling is what kept me sane and give me an opportunity to reflect and change a lot about myself and make me more confident in my actions which I felt were right. 🙏🏽

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