In addition to asking hundreds of Gen X and Gen Y rising leaders about what they want in a boss or manager, we also researched what current, established leaders want in up-and-comers. One question we regularly asked was, “What makes you want to invest in an individual?” By using the word “invest,” we meant the willingness to identify, seek out, help, sponsor, mentor, elevate, and empower others. We were eager to unpack when and why these leaders celebrate certain people by giving them opportunities and resources before, or instead, of others.

The main headline from this research is that to become an exceptional leader, you must first master the practice of being a good follower. Our hundreds, if not thousands, ...

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