Leadership Characteristics - Spring2 Innovation

Leadership Characteristics

October 2, 2012

English: Shield of Alberta

Innovation and leadership have a lot in common. Great leaders are instinctively innovative and lead their teams to be innovative.

John Ferguson, CEO of Suncor, gave a talk on leadership this past weekend in Ottawa at a University of Alberta School of Business Alumni event. During his talk to the small group, he paid tribute to his longtime friend, the late Peter Lougheed (the tenth premier of Alberta).  Ferguson quoted many of the values and leadership characteristics that Mr. Lougheed believed in.


  • Strive for extraordinary;
  • Have a vision and goals that stretch the team;
  • A leader has to be prepared and do the homework;
  • Be flexible – don’t have your mind made up from the start;
  • As a leader you have to concentrate – maintain focus; and
  • Be responsive to people. At times people struggle with issues in their personal life – be understanding

Mr. Ferguson put his leadership skills to use during the question period when opposing views on the future of the pipeline and its effects on the environment were brought up. He was remarkable at acknowledging everyone’s opinion and identifying that he saw their perspective as well.

The university has been working on creating a leadership program to cultivate a younger generation with leadership qualities early on. The program requires students to have had at least 2 years of time on campus prior to entering the program.  The question that came up was whether 2 years of university time is enough to identify whether candidates have the potential for leadership and whether more real world experience would be necessary.  The curriculum and structure are currently being ironed out. The Right Honorable Joe Clark (Canada’s 16th Prime Minister) was on hand as well and commented that it would be great to have opposing mindsets discuss and debate issues to develop leadership skills.

The ideas of teaching people to look at things from multiple perspectives and learning to acknowledge the opposing view point sound great – the ability to be flexible. How else can innovations come about without being flexible?

Can it be done? Can leaders be trained? When is the right time to train people to become leaders or become better leaders?