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Good leaders come in all sorts of packages, but they share a single trait

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
Always Musk.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the single most important leadership quality? Answer by Aaron Webber, Chairman and CEO, Webber Investments.

There’s a biblical saying, “The trumpet given uncertain sound who will prepare himself for battle.”  That’s accurate. Being consistent in terms of who you are and the thematic of principal-based direction you provide is absolutely critical to leadership, or else people will disengage.

They need to know that the boss, when he or she shows up, will likely say these sorts of things, will likely be in this sort of mood. It doesn’t really matter what you say or what mood you’re in—what matters is that you’re consistent

Uncertainty creates disengagement. That creates distrust.

I had a boss once who was outstanding when he was on, but inspired fear and loathing when he wasn’t. You were scared to death to approach him because you never knew which version you were going to get. Something you thought, “This is a piece of cake, I’ll just go run it by him and we’ll just move forward,” and he would absolutely blow his lid. Other times you’d sweat for days or weeks before you presented to him and he’d say, “Yeah, no big deal.” The amount of lost productivity and energy dealing with someone who manages that way is absolutely absurd.

Think of a large clock with a gear or cog that drives it. You wind that cog up, and it moves consistently in terms of direction and speed. That allows all of the other cogs to engage with it; their teeth mesh with the teeth of the cloth/cog, or teeth on teeth on teeth, or cog on cog on cog. You can drive multiple layers of cogs off that one master fog. That’s how they’re designed, that’s how you get a clock to function.

The absolute single most important leadership quality is constancy and consistency.  At whatever level, people need to be able to count on who you are and the principles you are driven by. In fact, one of the great compliments you can get from your employees is “I thought you’d say that,” or “I knew you’d say that,” or “I knew that’s what you’d want us to do.” That means you’ve got unanimity, that means you have alignment, that means you’ve had proven consistency over time historically.

That adds great value.

That is leadership.

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