CEO of the Year honorees have similar ideas about leadership.

One of the best things about working for a regional business magazine is getting a close-up look at local business leaders.

The lessons they are willing to share about good leadership can be found in our pages each month. And an extra-large dose of good guidance comes in this issue as we celebrate CEO of the Year honorees selected in an annual survey of central Ohio business and organization leaders conducted by Capital University's School of Management and Leadership.

Has there been a time when it was more important to reflect on what makes for good stewardship—whether for privately owned corporations, shareholders or even nonprofits? I doubt it.

It starts with Capital sending its survey to area executives. They vote for CEO of the Year candidates in four categories—large and small for-profit companies and large and small nonprofit organizations. The survey invites the executives to select one nominee in each category “based on the impact he/she has had on his/her organization and the central Ohio community.”

Our survey respondents know good leaders when they see them, as evidenced by the four winners and 12 finalists who emerged in the survey (and are profiled beginning on page 40).

Once the winners were selected, I had the privilege of talking with each of them about the lessons they have picked up in their own leadership journeys. We talked about their notions of good leadership characteristics, their own best skills, what they would like to do better, from whom they learned leadership, the best lessons they learned early on, when they began seeing themselves as leaders and what they hope will be their leadership legacy.

The recurring themes that came out of those conversations were striking. They create a compelling image of what constitutes inspiring leadership—and sadly, it's in sharp contrast to what is sometimes seen at the highest levels of public office.

With thanks to our CEOs of the Year for sharing, here is my interpretation of critical characteristics good leaders strive to cultivate.

Humility. Being at the top of an organization does not call for chest-thumping. Rather, it requires appreciation of what everyone else contributes and vigilance for enabling others to continue bringing their best selves to the enterprise. Good leaders know understanding and compassion will do more to ensure they have followers than arrogance ever could.

Integrity. The best CEOs accept that their company or organization's reputation is one of the most important assets in their hands. They realize creating and maintaining credibility and passion for their establishments rests with them. They enroll others to help but take full responsibility if things go off the rail.

Teachability. Top executives are always learning. They seek advisors—formally and informally—to give them feedback on what they are doing right and what they could do better. They invite others to speak up and refrain from dictating policy without input. They want senior staff to be experts in their subject areas, and then they listen to them.

Courage. One place where outstanding leaders put themselves first is on the firing line. They seize opportunities to inspire others to greater achievement. They dare to achieve the impossible. They take the first step forward and light a path to encourage others to follow.

Selflessness. More than for themselves, the best bosses want to make a difference for their employees, their customers and their community. They do not seek be memorialized but to leave their enterprises better than when they took the reins. The tribute they most desire is to know their efforts helped others achieve more.

A New Year is just around the corner. Any one of these traits might be a good place to start setting your resolutions.