Fortune 500 CEO: The One Quality Every Leader Must Have

May 9, 2016, 10:09 PM UTC
Businessman looks out of office window over city
Photograph by Ezra Bailey via Getty Images

The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Alan Colberg, president and CEO of Assurant, has answered the question: What are three skills that are critical to success?

The road to success may be longer than expected for those who are unprepared for the journey.

Driving the streets of Philadelphia as a truck driver to pay my way through college left a lasting impression on me. In the days before GPS navigation units, I needed to know my destination, have a route planned, and be able to navigate the bumps along the road. Similarly, in your career, you need to know where you’re headed, have the right skills to get there, and understand why you’re traveling down the road you’re on.

Technical skills are essential in helping you move forward in every career, but you also need to have strong “soft” skills. While there are many personal, social, and communicative behaviors that you should master, there are three critical interpersonal skills that will help keep you on the right track:

The rules of the road are always changing, but that’s no reason to lose focus and control. There is no room for discourteous behavior in the workplace, and it’s important to remember that manners do matter. Treat everyone with respect regardless of title or position, and apply the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” One of our main core values at Assurant (AIZ) is common decency. We instill in our employees the idea that we must treat each other and our customers with respect and courtesy.

See also: 3 Skills That Are Critical to Success

It is important not to become victim to insular thinking. Cultivate relationships inside and outside of the company to hear different ideas, learn something new, create business opportunities, and help others. Volunteering is one of the best ways to make new connections and gain deeper insights into the world. Some of the best ways we bring employees together are through charity events, which help them network and have fun for a good cause. A few years ago, we set a new Guinness World Record for the world’s largest mobile gaming party while raising money for United Way. The event brought together nearly 700 Assurant employees, allowing people to step out of their cubes and break out of their work silos.

Work is not simply about checking tasks off a to-do list. It is about having a passion for what you do, and being eager to make your work better. You need to continually seek ways to grow and focus on self-improvement, regardless of the title you’ve achieved at work. Similarly, your commitment to quality should never waiver. You need to expect the best from yourself. That way you set the tone for what others can expect of you.

These skills aren’t just necessary for getting ahead—they are necessary for a better life. Fortunately, you can learn and improve upon all of them with practice. While they are critically important, I’d add that there is one character trait that supersedes all others in guiding you on the right path.


Integrity needs to be a critical strength for leaders, as it’s the most important behavior for them to exhibit. It requires doing the right thing and maintaining a high level of professionalism. It is not enough to say you have the highest ethical standards; you have to actively live and demonstrate them on a consistent and daily basis.

Living a life of integrity and mastering new skills requires a sustained commitment, but the rewards are great, and you will find the destination was well worth the trip.