Leadership: finding individual super performance

What characteristics define those leaders who outperform other leaders over a sustained period? What makes some CEOs super performers, while others fail to deliver or burn brightly for a short time before fading?

In my experience of working with high calibre leaders across industries over many years, there are consistent skills and attributes that I see crop up again and again. The good news is, many of them are not necessarily inherent, they can be learned and practised.

So, here are my seven skills/attributes for super performance:

  1. Balance – finding a healthy work/life balance is critical. The best leaders have the ability to switch on and off from work, with a keen focus on their own physical and mental wellbeing
  2. Strong idea of their identity – super performers know who they are, what they stand for and they live by those values
  3. Self-belief and humility – the two aren’t an oxymoron; a leader can have confidence in their abilities and trust in their judgement (don’t mistake that for arrogance), but are open to others’ opinions and have the humility to accept when they make mistakes
  4. Willingness to work hard – show me a successful but lazy CEO and I’ll sell you a unicorn (the mystical horned creature that is, not the $1billion start-up)
  5. A mission-critical skill – yes, great leaders are multi-talented but the super performer has a particular skill that matters and is of great value to the industry they’re in
  6. A hunger to improve – dissatisfied with the status quo, a super performer is always looking to improve on what’s already there whether a product, service or process
  7. A hurdler – this one’s less a skill and more an experience of overcoming a big hurdle in their work or home life. These experiences teach resilience and optimism that overcoming even the biggest challenge is possible.

What do you think marks out a super performer?
Of course, these are just some of the key skills and attributes that I’ve noticed that mark out the super performer. Agree or disagree? Let me know which ones you’d add to the list.