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Some top chief executive officers drive their companies to success while others drive their companies into the ground. After interviewing 300 CEOs and top executives in over 40 countries, Robert Rosen and his colleagues at Healthy Companies International have come up with five key characteristics of the best leaders that he describes in Executive Excellence magazine.

GENUINE: They are warm and engaging - open not only about themselves but also about their business. They are forthright about their strengths and shortcomings as a leader. They admit they don't have all the answers, so they seek assistance from others, asking tough questions and listening deeply. "Their authenticity - apparent to all around them - fosters trust. When people know they can rely on their leaders to tell the truth, and can depend on their leaders to be transparent, they are more willing to be themselves, take risks, and stretch to their full potential," he writes.

COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY: They understand the constant flux inherent in their job and business. They know that what worked yesterday won't necessarily work tomorrow, and optimistically view uncertainty as fuelling the fires of creativity. They turn the anxiety that accompanies change into productive energy for moving forward. They do that with a sense of balance: They're optimistic about the possibilities while being realistic about what might actually work. They impatiently push people to stretch while creating a supportive work environment. They exude confidence while remaining humble enough to listen to and learn from others.

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FOCUS ON HUMAN SIDE: They see people as the primary driver of the firm's success, and know that if they can get the people part right they can keep the business running smoothly. "They believe in investing in people first, and see finances as the business's scorecard," Mr. Rosen notes.

COMMITTED TO GROWTH: They have a clear philosophy and model for growth, knowing what worked in the past and what's needed for the future. They focus on that future, challenging the company to grow faster, and encourage others to experiment and take bold steps.

OBSESSED WITH EXECUTION: They have a passionate desire to succeed - constantly raising the bar - and a plan to motivate and align their people. They ensure a sense of accountability in the organization. They push decision-making and authority down in an empowered, accountable organization that they foster.

Relationships: The art of the e-mail introduction

It's common these days to help two people in your network of relationships by introducing them to each other through e-mail. But entrepreneur Auren Hoffman says too often this is done mechanically, and the potential value to them is squandered. His suggestions:

· Take the time to really think why both parties will benefit from each other and spell it out to them. Avoid the type of hastily written e-mail introduction he once received: "Auren/John - you two just HAVE to meet each other. You two take it from here." He would have liked to know who John is and why they should meet.

· E-mail the two parties and ask for permission to introduce them, explaining the benefit you see.

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· Be clear in your e-mail introduction what the next action for them should be, suggesting whether they should meet for lunch, coffee, over the phone, or just exchange e-mails. "Often people should just have a quick phone call and you don't want to waste the time of one or both people by suggesting a lunch," Mr. Hoffman writes on his Summation blog.

· Give their first and last names, and quick bios. Clearly give the location of each person, which is often forgotten in these introductions. Copy their assistants on the note if that seems appropriate.

"As an introducer, your goal should be for both parties to be glad that you made the intro. If only party one gets value from the meeting, you have failed," he concludes.

Innovation: The value of Mad Men rewards

In the second season of Mad Men, copywriter Peggy Olson confronted senior partner Roger Sterling in the hallway, reminding him that she landed the Popsicle account on her own, and asked to receive her own office as compensation. "It's yours," she is told.

H. James Wilson, a senior researcher at Babson Executive Education, says in Harvard Business Review blogs that it's not usually a great idea to look for innovation tips in a TV series, but that the Mad Men example was dead on. Research shows bosses shouldn't hesitate to openly reward the execution of a solid idea.

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Indeed, Babson research found that employees at companies that overtly reward innovation are two and a half times more likely to personally develop new ideas on a regular basis than those working at non-rewarding companies. So hiring imaginative, intrinsically motivated people is not enough - like Peggy Olson, they need to be rewarded.

Power Points

· Toronto-based consultant Donald Cooper offers a different take on management training: A team of front-line employees are given authority to put together a two-hour training session in which they explain to the management team what policies, processes and practices are not working as they should - and how to improve them. Donald Cooper's Management Newsletter

· When you delegate more, mistakes will happen. Learn to lower your expectations - in time, it will pay off as subordinates grow. Just Tell me How To Manage blog

· The next management issue for business, according to a McKinsey & Company global survey of corporate executives, will be biodiversity, or the diversity of species, variety of ecosystems, and variability of genes. The McKinsey Quarterly

· Consultant Alastair Dryburgh urges you to ignore the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If it's not broken, he says it probably will be soon, thanks to a myriad of technological and market pressures. Management Today

· Social entrepreneur Dev Aujla, who divides his time between Toronto and New York, says that when you consider which conferences and receptions to attend don't just pick one super gathering that everyone raves about. Like venture capitalists, who bet on 10 companies knowing many will flop, attend as many events as possible and accept that any specific one may be a bust.

· Are you wasting time on hold when calling a customer service centre? Try intermediary, which allows you to hang up the phone after you are put on hold by the company you are calling. When the customer service representative finally takes your call, he will be asked to press 1, which will call you. Blogger Aseem Kishore was surprised when both times he tried it they did call him back.

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