The Attributes of a Leader – Lyceum Speaker Rod Adams

By Tom Hanlon

Rod Adams knows a bit about leadership. As PricewaterhouseCooper’s US Recruitment Leader, he is responsible for the team that is hiring more than 15,000 professionals and interns over the next year. He has spent all 19 of his professional years with PwC, and developed the leadership skills that have placed him in a variety of leadership positions with the company. He has a keen eye for the values and characteristics that effective leaders possess, and he shared his thoughts with accountancy students at a recent lyceum on those values and characteristics.

“It’s not about role, and it’s not about title,” Adams said. “There’s not a certain mold you have to fit into. And know that leadership can happen at all levels.”

Leaders, Adams said, need to be prepared to deal with megatrends happening in society – such as advancements in technology, urban city growth, resource scarcity, climate change, the growing population of older people, and the shift in global economic power. By 2050, Adams noted, the economies of developing countries will be bigger than those of developed countries.

“Leaders need to be agile and prepared to deal with the constant change that’s happening on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

Senior leaders at PwC look to develop whole leaders. “Whole leadership is the core,” Adams said, and the framework around that core includes business acumen, technical capabilities, global acumen, and relationships.

While Adams acknowledged that leaders are not cut from a mold, he did identify what he termed four building blocks or attributes of a leader: IQ, EQ, CQ, and PQ. He spoke briefly on each attribute.

IQ (Intelligence Quotient)

“This has to do with having the skills you need – having the technical skills to be, for example, a good accountant,” he said. “It’s expected in our profession that we be technically sound.” In building skills, he advised students to get an internship and also to carefully consider the electives they take. “What are the classes that are going to help you in the profession you want to go into? Think about courses that can give you more balance and experience.” As an example, he told the students to think about taking acting classes, to help them communicate their thoughts better and give them confidence in front of groups. “Challenge yourself,” he encouraged the students. “Ask yourself, what can I do to continue to grow my skills?”

EQ (Emotional Quotient)

“Your emotional quotient has to do with how you perceive and evaluate emotions, your own and those of others, and how you manage those emotions,” Adams said. “It’s about listening skills, it’s about your ability to question and understand information, it’s about how you perceive and understand verbal and nonverbal cues, about how you receive feedback. All those skills are important in building trust-based relationships. Quite honestly, this is more important than IQ. Building trust-based relationships in our profession and in most professions is the key to being successful.”

Quite honestly, [EQ] is more important than IQ. Building trust-based relationships in our profession and in most professions is the key to being successful.

CQ (Cultural Quotient)

“Cultural quotient is about being sensitive to race, culture, age, and other differences,” Adams said. “It’s about being aware and respectful and having empathy. Developing this skillset is incredibly important.” Students can build their CQ by “traveling to different places, getting involved in those cultures, and looking to build relationships with people who are different from you,” Adams added. “Consider study abroad programs. Get involved with volunteering and with cultural organizations – anything that allows you to freely experience different cultures will be incredibly important.”

PQ (Passion Qotient)

“This is the one that you can’t learn and develop,” Aadams said. “The other three you can. This one, you just have to figure out what your passions are. Good, strong leaders have passion. They throw themselves into what they are passionate about. They are inspired, and because they are, they are inspiring. They are passionate about whatever they are doing.” He noted that his passions have to do with adventure, risk, and competition, and those passions fuel his recruiting. The key is to figure out how to work your passions into your professional life.

“You don’t have to be super in all four Q’s,” he said. “You’ll probably be stronger in one or two. But you do need to be on the strength side in all of them.”

Good, strong leaders have passion. They throw themselves into what they are passionate about. They are inspired, and because they are, they are inspiring.

Leadership Brand

Adams also spoke to the students about building their leadership brand. “You need to be conscious about what you want your brand to be,” he said.

Adams noted that three principles apply to branding for all leaders, no matter what:

  • Authenticity (“Don’t try to be something you’re not. If you put a spin on something that you really don’t have a passion for, you’re not going to be a good leader.”)
  • Differentiation (“How do you stand out? How do you demonstrate your skills?”)
  • Experience (“Are people inspired by you when they engage with you?”)

While you want to build a strong brand, and maintain it, it’s also possible to repair a damaged brand, Adams said. “It will take grit, backbone, and time,” he cautioned. “You’ll need to build and demonstrate the skills you want to be known for.”

The Branding Process

Adams noted that leaders must go through a branding process that has three key facets to it:

  • A discovery facet, in which you sort out what you want to be known for, based on what you are passionate about
  • A communication facet, in which you identify who needs to know you and how you are going to reach them in a meaningful way
  • An alignment facet, in which you determine how you can reinforce your brand in each interaction you have

During the discovery process, Adams said, you should ask for feedback – find out how others perceive you as a leader. “Listen to how people introduce you,” he said. “That will give you some insight into how others see you.”

During the communication process, he noted that you need to be clear about what’s important to you and what your skillsets are, be visible, and share your expertise with others. “Good leaders always share and help others,” he said.

During the alignment process, you should focus on being consistent with what you really want to be known for – “Don’t try to do a million different things, because it’s going to be hard to be successful” – and expand your networks while maintaining your relevance.

“It’s About Bringing Your Best”

“At the end of the day,” Adams said, “leadership is about bringing your best to whatever it is you do, and delivering that best in an authentic way, and do it in an inspired way, where you will inspire others as well.”