What distinguishes a great leader?
This year, over 90% of CEO’s will plan to invest more in leadership development toward the end goal of developing effective leaders and thereby bettering their organisations.
According to a new report from McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, while good leadership is certainly crucial to organisational health, it would behoove these same organisations to consider what type of leadership behaviour exactly they wish for their team members to embody.
As it were, the very word leadership is such a vast concept that serves as an umbrella under which one can find more specific methods of gauging someone’s effectiveness in leading: emotional intelligence, adaptability, self-esteem, self-direction, and role modeling—just to name a few.
There is simply so much that a leadership development program can cover…so where to begin? Are there certain areas of focus organisations should place a heavier emphasis on? Are there certain traits that rank with higher priority than others when it comes to effective leadership?
As it turns out, there very well may be.
McKinsey & Company recently developed a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits. Then they surveyed 189,000 individuals across 81 organisations from around the world. The purpose of doing so was to assess how frequently certain leadership traits from the list of 20 were exhibited within the individual’s leadership role.
Among the organisations with the strongest leadership performance, 4 of the 20 leadership traits were regularly displayed. See the chart below.
The following definitions of each of the 4 traits are taken from McKinsey & Company’s report:
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. This trait is conspicuous in managers who monitor trends affecting organizations, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues, and give 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.
Will your organisation be investing in leadership development this year? Instead of pursuing a one-size-fits-all ‘umbrella’ cure all, why not consider focusing your training on the four areas above? As these 4 traits repeatedly showed up among the top organisations in the world where it concerns strong leadership performance, they may very well be the key to developing effective leaders and healthier organisations.