A friend emailed me the following question yesterday:

“What are the most important attributes of leaders?”

I thought about it for a few minutes and sent this reply.  This was off-the-cuff, so don’t hold me too tightly to it.

Patience, impatience, perspective, morally neutral disposition, and a sense of humor.

Patience is pretty self-explanatory.  You can’t be frustrated with everyone all the time and pressuring them.

Impatience is equally necessary.  When you have a vision, you have to be unable to sleep until you make progress on it.

Perspective allows you to weather the bad stuff.  I lost a customer early on and was feeling defeated.  My brother (a successful entrepreneur) asked me what the big deal was.  “So What?” he said.  “Cornelius Vanderbilt had steamers sink and people died.  Yet he was able to continue on and create value for millions.  What if he had quit?  You don’t win everything.”

Moral neutrality doesn’t mean you have no morals.  It means you approach other humans with a rational choice lens.  You assume their actions are taken not out of goodness or evil, but rational self-interest.  This helps you understand how to change the incentives they face to get cooperation, instead of being bitter at what you think their motives are or what they “should” do.

A sense of humor is the only thing that keeps it fun, and if it’s not fun it’s hell!