Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

The Most Important Leadership Trait I Can't Define


It's been on my mind for a while. Potential has got to be the most significant leadership ambition. Great leaders have an outstanding ability to captivate and engage every ounce of available potential.

That, in the end, is what successful leadership is - isn't it? It's not completely about the ability to achieve a particular outcome as much as it's about the ability to fully realize the potential of all available resources. Did your people contribute their absolute best? Did the finances get used effectively? Was the available equipment maximized? Great leaders can walk away from a project confident they got everything out of a situation that was available - nothing left on the table.

The difficult part is defining potential. It's easy in science - say if we where discussing potential energy. It's incredibly difficult in real life to truly define potential. Project managers are good at defining resources like hours, dollars, and these types of variables. There is a significant difference, though, between man hours available and quality work. Let's be honest, we're not all completely effective to our maximum potential for every available hour we're at work.

I've walked away from projects I've lead and felt confident that my team maximized the potential of the opportunity. I've also walked away disappointed. Not because a project didn't go well, but because I knew it could have been better. There was more potential in an idea, a person, or a budget, that we didn't fully realize. For me, that's almost worse than failing. I've never liked the feeling of knowing there was more potential than I was able to capture. That, to me, feels like I didn't do my job.

This is where the whole thing gets incredibly complicated: how in the world will we ever define human potential?

A daunting task for sure.

Focus in 2013

The Problem with Story