McKinsey's recent research points to a small subset of leadership skills that closely correlates with leadership success, particularly among frontline leaders.
McKinsey came up with a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits, surveyed 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations around the world to assess how frequently certain kinds of leadership behavior are applied within their organizations. Finally, they divided the sample into organizations whose leadership performance was strong (the top quartile of leadership effectiveness as measured by McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index) and those that were weak (bottom quartile).
What McKinsey found was that leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed 4 of the 20 possible types of behavior; these 4, indeed, explained 89 percent of the variance between strong and weak organizations in terms of leadership effectiveness (exhibit).
- Solving problems effectively. The process that precedes decision making is problem solving, when information is gathered, analyzed, and considered. This is deceptively difficult to get right, yet it is a key input into decision making for major issues (such as M&A) as well as daily ones (such as how to handle a team dispute).
- Operating with a strong results orientation. Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives but also following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.
- Seeking different perspectives. ...monitors trends affecting organizations, grasps changes in the environment, encourages employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues, and gives the appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Leaders who do well on this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.
- Supporting others. Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency, allaying unwarranted fears about external threats and preventing the energy of employees from dissipating into internal conflict.
From McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index research: The ...presence, at all ...levels, of talented, high-potential leaders ...is essential to create something from nothing.
While most organizations use career opportunities to motivate employees, companies in this cluster use career opportunities as a leadership-development practice. Role modeling and real experience are more important than passing along sage lessons.
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