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Do You Have the Right Stuff as a Leader?

by Hal Levenson on Jul 25, 2012 11:25:21 AM

Any business leader you ask will have a list of personality traits, characteristics, or skills that combine to create a great leader. It is easy to focus these lists internally – to think of the kind of person who can become a great leader. However, there are external matters that also define a leader.

You are probably aware of the recent crisis at JP Morgan. You probably have an opinion about whether Jamie Dimon should or should not be fired. My personal opinion is that Jamie Dimon did not really know. Rather than an issue of character or ethics (or legality), I think the leadership failure in this case was related to knowledge and actions. Perhaps he missed President Ronald Regan’s leadership lesson: delegate, but verify.

Having the right stuff as a leader also depends on recognizing and hiring the right talent, on knowing when to delegate and when to lead, and choosing the right people and leading them by instituting the right controls. Effective leadership requires more than a particular type of person. It also requires that person to make sound judgments about people and business functions and to protect both the company and the individual by erecting the necessary controls and monitoring the outcomes.

Jamie Dimon’s leadership failure at JP Morgan was not related to character or training. Dimon’s failure was in not erecting the appropriate and necessary controls when he delegated. Effective controls would have mitigated the outcome. With our 20/20 hindsight, it is easy to say his real failure might have been in recognizing when to lead rather than delegate.

Having the right stuff as a leader begins with who you are, the quality of your judgments, and the decisions and actions you take. Have you surrounded yourself with the right talent? Do you know when to delegate and when to lead? Do you support the people to whom you delegate authority by surrounding them with appropriate controls? How do you improve your leadership skills?


1. Examine your corporate leadership culture. Review your processes and ensure that the right controls are in place before you delegate responsibility.

2. Ensure that you have a dashboard to monitor what is happening when you are not around.

3. Actively look at ways you can improve yourself as a leader.

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