There’s been some intense speculation for a while now over who Warren Buffett, soon to be celebrating his 85th birthday, will choose to succeed him as the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Adding fuel to the fire, Buffett recently released his 50th letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, in which he and his business partner, Charlie Munger, talk about the traits they look for in a CEO of a Berkshire subsidiary company—characteristics they’re sure to keep in mind when the time comes to name a successor.
So, what does it take to be a business leader in Buffett’s eyes? Namely, these four traits.
No surprise here. You can’t lead a company unless your team, your clients, and the public (if you’re way up there) trust you and your judgment. Building trust, then, is no small matter when it comes to leading a company, or even a team.
To do this, think consistency, communication, and compassion. You have to be the type of person who always honors commitments, discusses matters transparently, and, importantly, exudes kindness. No, you don’t have to like someone to trust him or her, but it definitely helps.
Another way to build trust is to be really, really good at what you do. Being highly skilled demands respect, and for the hard-core left-brained people in the organization, this is the only thing that will get their buy-in.
Buffett, an expert investor tasked with allocating capital in Berkshire Hathaway, will no doubt consider this an essential skill when choosing a successor. Besides technical skill, though, less tangible abilities related to strategic thinking, project management, or relationship building are also sought after and are often the difference between mediocre and inspirational leadership.
Read More: 5 Skills You Need to Be a Leader at Work
It’s not all about what you can do; it’s also about how you do it. When you’re the leader of a company or team, all eyes are on you. It’s important to be self-aware when you’re a leader and understand that you must imbue energy and enthusiasm into your actions. The difference between a boss who, say, was clearly forced to offer more vacation time and a boss who does so to make sure his or her employees are happier and more well-rested isn’t hard to see. Be the latter one.
4. Love for the Business
This is perhaps the most unexpected trait in this list. Buffett expects more than just someone who can do the job and get buy-in from others. He wants someone who actually loves the company. This goes beyond being excited about the company’s product or outlook. It’s not about meeting job requirements or having certain certifications. It’s about passion for the company and the desire to grow and care for it.
Actually, given some thought, maybe this isn’t such a surprise given the fact that Berkshire Hathaway represents Buffett’s life’s work. At Berkshire Hathaway or any company, moving into a leadership position is more than a nice career move. It’s taking on guardianship.
Leadership looks different everywhere—and while these four traits come from the two leaders of Berkshire Hathaway—they also transcend industries and companies. After all, Buffett didn’t rise to his success without being able to recognize good leadership.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.