The Four Traits of World-Class Leaders

Leadership might seem like an ineffable skill — you’re either born a good leader, or you aren’t. But according to research, leadership breaks down into a few basic skills that you can learn and incorporate into your daily practices.

Elena Botelho and Kim Powell are advisors at the firm ghSMART, which has performed over 17,000 assessments on C-suite leaders. This data set is the basis of their book The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors that Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders

They break down the four traits that the most successful CEOs consistently exhibit. Here’s how you can embody those traits to make your independent pharmacy more successful.  

1. Decisiveness

When you’re the leader of an organization, it’s up to you to make a lot of important decisions. Most people would probably take the time to weigh pros and cons or seek out advice from outside experts.

But Botelho and Powell point out that’s not how the most successful CEOs make decisions. Instead of biding their time to make the absolute best decision, they make decisions quickly.

“Decisive CEOs are driven by a unique sense of responsibility,” they write. “While the rest of this may tie ourselves into knots wanting to get each decision right, they make calls they know could be wrong, operating in a sea of uncertainty. What makes this all possible: deciding with speed and conviction.”

There are three ways you can learn to make decisions faster.

  • Simplify. Don’t get caught up in the dozens of variables that could affect the outcome and distill information into its simplest form to make a quick but informed decision.
  • Don’t rule by committee. Involve other people in the decision-making process, but don’t expect to come to a consensus. Once you’ve heard the most important viewpoints, use that information to make your own individual decision — don’t take it to a vote.
  • Make fewer decisions. Realize you don’t have to be the arbiter of every single decision in your pharmacy. Delegate small decisions when you can so you have the energy to devote to the decisions that have a bigger impact on your business.

2. Determination

It’s natural to want your patients, your staff members, and your investors to like you.

But likeability is an overrated trait for a CEO or business leader, according to Botelho and Powell. “Up to a certain point, having the ability to engage well with others translates into better performance,” they write. “But past a ‘sweet spot’ at the top of the bell curve, being too agreeable (too nice) can backfire as CEOs hesitate to make the tough calls out of fear of upsetting the apple cart.”

Instead, focus on outcomes. Know your goals and keep your eye on the prize. After you’ve determined what you’re working toward, you can get to know the people involved: the patients you must impress, the employees you have to motivate, and the stakeholders who are expecting a certain return on investment.

When you lead with the intent of reaching a specific end goal, you can still make a positive impression on the people around you because they can see the “why” behind your actions.

By shedding the need to be “likeable,” you free yourself up to make the occasional unpopular decision along the way in order to meet your goals. You don’t have to please everyone all the time to be a good leader and run a successful business.

3. Reliability

You might dream of being described with adjectives like “visionary” or “revolutionary,” but leadership success often lies with a more mundane trait — reliability.

“While reliability sounds obvious, we see leaders struggle every day trying to get themselves and their organizations to consistently execute on their commitments,” Botelho and Powell write.

When you are reliable, the people who depend on your business will see you as “safe.” To become the most reliable leader you can be, use these principles:

  • Realistic expectations. Make promises that you know you can deliver on, and don’t promise big, transformative results that sound impressive if you can’t deliver on them. Consistently succeeding on smaller tasks is more impressive than failing to meet larger goals.
  • Radical accountability. Be transparent about the work you are doing so that when you succeed, your employees and stakeholders can see how that success happened. But be prepared to have that same transparency when it comes to failure: don’t try to hide your mistakes under the rug. Acknowledge them and why they happened, then move on to a better solution.
  • Systems management. Develop clear systems in your pharmacy that help you and employees hit targets even when they struggle. A well-designed workflow also serves as a safety net.

4. Adaptability

If you become successful using one business model, that’s no guarantee that you will be able to stay successful. Think about once-giant businesses like Blockbuster and Borders: both fizzled out because they couldn’t change with the times.

CEOs and leaders who want to run businesses that have a long-lasting impact need to be adaptable and ready to navigate the unknown, according to Botelho and Powel. And to do that, they must acknowledge that there are things they don’t know.

“Humility enables leaders to understand that they do not have it all figured out and that ‘what they know’ is less important than how quickly they learn and adapt,” they write. “The great leaders are the ones who are willing and able to learn from those from different services, units, ranks, and experiences.”

The key to adaptability is not clinging to the past. Just because you’ve always done things one way doesn’t mean you should continue to do them the same way in the future.

In fact, you should seek out new ways of doing things. You don’t have to incorporate every new and radical idea into your pharmacy business, but when you’re hearing a lot of fresh perspectives, you’ll know which ones are going to be good fits for your pharmacy.

Solicit ideas from your staff members, because they have more firsthand knowledge about what changes will actually improve their job, and don’t dismiss ideas that don’t come from the top.

Follow the Series: Business Book Summaries







We take popular and acclaimed business books and break down their most essential principles — easy to digest, easy to apply. Learn the most important lessons and start implementing them today to improve your pharmacy business.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Becoming an Extraordinary Manager: The Five Essentials for Success

Without Saying a Word: Master the Science of Body Language & Maximize Your Success

Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors that Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping

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