5 qualities of a good leader start with "I," says global CEO

Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Group Holdings, speaks at the Singapore Fintech Conference on Nov. 16, 2016.
Ore Huiying | Bloomberg | Getty Images

What kind of leader just thinks about "I"? Well, a successful one, it seems.

That's according to Piyush Gupta, the CEO of Southeast Asia's largest bank.

Writing in a recent LinkedIn blog post, the DBS chief said that the course of his 35-year career has caused him to identify the five core qualities that make a great leader — and they all being with the letter "I."

Describing them as his leadership "mantra," the 58-year-old said the "five i's" have become increasingly useful to him at a time when careers are becoming more unpredictable.

"We live in interesting times. With digital disruption, jobs of the future will be vastly different from what they are today," Gupta wrote.

Exactly what they will look like is hard to say, he continued. A recent report from the World Economic Forum suggests that a third of skills required for future jobs are yet to be fully identified. But certain qualities for success will remain constant. Among them, the ability to lead.

"All of us are leaders in our own right," Gupta wrote. "Wherever we are, and whatever we are called to do, if we can exemplify these five qualities, we can make a big difference amid the changes upon us."

Here are Gupta's "five I's of leadership":

Individual accountability

At work, particularly in large companies, it can be easy to push decision-making up the chain or follow the consensus, Gupta wrote in his post.

Leaders, however, don't do that, he explained. They acknowledge that they are individually accountable for their work, so they take ownership of it and its implications for the rest of their organization.

"Leaders are people who take an end to end view of the universe, of their world and of their jobs. They take ownership, problem-solve, and hold to the notion that the buck stops with them," wrote Gupta.


Gupta defines initiative as the capacity to "define an agenda."

Being able to do that, and prioritizing the areas where you can make an impact — especially in the face of external distractions — is vital to good leadership, he wrote.

"The real trick in leadership is: How can we define an agenda that leaves our job, board or community a better place than what we inherited or found?" Gupta posited.


"In this fast-changing world, now more than ever before, leaders need to embrace a spirit of innovation," wrote Gupta.

Innovation is not necessarily about creating the new iPhone, he continued. It's about "having the capacity to question the status quo."

"Leaders question why things are done the way they are, and make it a priority to reimagine what is the customer's true job to be done," he wrote.


Good leaders also need to have a strong vision, believe in it fully and be able to communicate it to others so they buy into it, too.

Those "others" needn't just be juniors. They can be peers, adversaries and seniors, as well, Gupta noted.

"Leaders inspire others, and take people along with them on a journey," he wrote.


Finally, leaders need to have intent, both for themselves as individuals and those they are directing, Gupta explained.

"What is our purpose on earth? Why were we born? What are we going to leave behind a