The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, AN OVERVIEW OF IMPORTANT IDEAS IN THIS BOOK, Insight 11, continued

 

“Insight 11, continued with the last sentence from last week’s post: In general in examining all of our data, it is clear that the greater the number of strengths you have, the more likely you are to be considered a great leader.

This has enormous implications for executive selection processes, which seem often to be seeking people who possess no flaws.  It seems that the emphasis should be on seeking people with remarkable configurations of strengths.  Proven track records of accomplishment stemming from competencies appear to be the key to finding great leaders.

This also has enormous implications for leadership development.  In the past we have often focused our efforts on patching over weaknesses.  When executives are given a 360-degree feedback report, the consistent reaction is to ignore the pages describing their strengths, and immediately focus on weaknesses, which in most cases are simple behaviors that are rated as less positive rather than real fatal flaws.  It is as if strengths are givens, and the thing to work on is weaknesses or less positive areas.  Increasingly we are convinced this is a mistake.  It is far better to magnify strengths, or create strengths out of those characteristics that are in positive territory but not fully developed.  Leaders who are moderately effective and preoccupy themselves with incremental improvement of less positive issues will never move from good to great.

Personal comments:

I’m also guilty of looking at my weaknesses first, and ignoring strengths, even in these senior years of mine.  They have been there a long time, but my strengths were recognized by those whom I served, and that is sufficient.

When leaders focus on their strengths the organization will thrive, with one caveat.  Their weaknesses need to be “covered” by their staffs.  Those leader staffs must include those who possess the skills and abilities to overcome the leaders inability/weakness in those areas.  In order for that to happen the leader must value trust, open communication, expectations, goals, teamwork as well as other skills I’ve written about.  Not an easy task but well worth the effort.

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders

AN OVERVIEW OF IMPORTANT IDEAS IN THIS BOOK

Continued

The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, AN OVERVIEW OF IMPORTANT IDEAS IN THIS BOOK, Continued

 

“Insight 9.  Effective leaders have widely different personal styles.  There is no one right way to lead.  In our research we tried diligently to discover the one, two, or three capabilities that were common for all extraordinary leaders.  We failed.  Our research confirms what has been suggested from clinical studies of organizations and leaders.  There clearly is no one pattern that covers all organizations, nor leaders within any one organization.  Our data support the conclusion that effective leadership is incredibly complex and diverse.  Providing one simple key to leadership is just not workable.

Our inability to find these universal issues was in many ways one of our most profound findings.  The research suggests that extraordinary leaders come in all shapes and sizes.  Some have strengths in some competencies while others compliment them because of their strengths in different competencies.  For an organization to have exceptional leadership ability it needs to assemble the right team with ample diversity and talent to maximize the collective influence of the team.

Insight 10.  Effective leadership practices are specific to an organization.  Countless leaders who were successful in an organization switch to another and then fail.  This is compelling evidence that leaders must fit the organization.

Our research showed wide variations between organizations regarding the specific competencies that were valued most by each one.  Leadership always occurs in a context.

Insight 11.  The key to developing great leadership is to build strengths.  When people are challenged to improve their leadership effectiveness, they almost automatically assume that the best approach for improvement is fixing weaknesses.  In fact most leadership development processes result in leaders developing an action plan that focuses primarily on weaknesses.  Our research has led us to conclude that great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths.  Great leaders, as seen through the eyes of subordinates and peers, possess multiple strengths, and our research shows a relatively straight-line progression.  The more strengths people have, the more likely they are to be perceived as great leaders.  These strengths are not always the same ones.  Of the 16 competencies that we discovered, great leaders did not have the same four strengths.  However, these strengths cannot all be from the same cluster.  They must be distributed among the various building blocks described earlier (character, personal capabilities, focus on results, interpersonal skills, leading organizational change).

In general in examining all of our data, it is clear that the greater the number of strengths you have, the more likely you are to be considered a great leader.

Personal comments:

Insight 11 discussion will continue in next week’s post, personal comments included.

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders

AN OVERVIEW OF IMPORTANT IDEAS IN THIS BOOK

Insight 11, continued

The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, AN OVERVIEW OF IMPORTANT IDEAS IN THIS BOOK, Continued

 

Authors quotes:

“Insight 5.  Great leadership consists of possessing several ‘building blocks’ of capabilities, each complementing the others.  We have described the ‘building blocks’ of :

– Character

– Personal capabilities

– Focus on results

– Interpersonal skills

– Leading organizational change

Each of these consist of several fairly distinct competencies or sets of behaviors.  A key insight is that possessing only one of them is not likely to have you perceived as an effective leader.  In fact, leaders possessing one competency as a strength at the 90th percentile would not be rated at the 90th percentile in terms of overall leadership effectiveness.

Insight 6.  Leadership culminates in championing change.  The highest expression of leadership involves change, and the highest order of change is guiding an organization through a new strategic direction, changing its culture, or changing the fundamental business model.  Thus, change is an important and ultimate criterion by which to measure leadership effectiveness.

Insight 7.  All competencies are not equal.  Some differentiate good leaders from great leaders, while others do not.  There has been an enormous amount of money spent, mostly by larger corporations, to define competencies.  The implication of these lists has often been that all of these were of equal importance, and that the wise manager would devote time to being good at all of them.

Our research, on the contrary, suggests that some competencies tower above others, and which ones are most important often depends on the organization.  For example, in one organization we studied the data showed that the single most important competency for a leader was to be seen as technically competent.  Conversely, the quality that put leaders into the bottom rung was their lack of technical competence.  This one characteristic was far more important than the second or third distinguishing capability.

The point is that if people seek to be perceived as great leaders, it behooves them to know which competencies really make a difference in their organization.  Our research identified 16 competencies that actually separated the top 10 percent of all leaders from the rest.  We believe these are the competencies on which most leaders should focus (comprises Chapter 4 of the book).

Insight 8.  Leadership competencies are linked closely together.  While an effort has been made to make them appear unique and specific, the fact of the matter is that leadership competencies are highly intertwined.  Several forces appear to to be at work to make this happen.  One is that becoming good at one competency appears to make people better at another.  This is the ‘cross-training effects.’  The second way they become linked appears to be from ‘attribution’ or the creation of a ‘halo effect.’  If a leader is perceived as being high effective in working with people, then it is easy to attribute to that person the skills of being committed to the development of subordinates.”

Personal comments:

Insight 7 speaks to the need for leaders to surround themselves with those who will assist in meeting, and strengthening all 16 competencies (future discussion).

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders

AN OVERVIEW OF IMPORTANT IDEAS IN THIS BOOK

Continued

The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, AN OVERVIEW OF IMPORTANT IDEAS IN THIS BOOK, Continued

 

“Authors quotes:  Insight 4.  The relationship between improved leadership and increased performance outcomes is neither precisely incremental nor is it linear.

After evaluating a variety of different assessments comparing leadership effectiveness with outcomes measured above (discussed in last week’s post), a distinct pattern emerged in almost all of our studies.  Poor leaders (those up to the 20th percentile) had poor results, while leaders above the 80th percentile achieved exceptional results.  Looking at only those two data points, the relationship appears fairly linear, but in each case where we examined those leaders with good results (20th to 80th percentiles), they achieved approximately the same level of outcomes even though their effectiveness ranged from the 20th to the 80th percentile.  The concept that leadership effectiveness is not precisely incrementally related to performance outcomes means that incremental improvements in leadership will not create incremental improvements in performance outcomes.  Perhaps if it did, people would be more focused on improvement.  They would see that a slight improvement in their leadership ability created improved performance created improved job performance.  Leaders whose effectiveness ratings are at the 40th or 50th percentile end up achieving about the same performance as the leaders at the 60th or 70th percentile.  Those at the 40 or 50th percentile and who choose to conserve the energy involved in change might ask themselves, ‘What’s the point?  My results are the same as others who are working to improve their leadership.’  The lack of incremental movement of leadership and performance makes it difficult for people to make the jump to extraordinary performance.  And so most choose to be satisfied with good performance rather to move forward to higher levels.  Some organizations as well appear to be satisfied with leaders that are good.”

Personal comments:

Simply put, organizations, for a variety of reasons, choose to be good, but not exceptional.  Exceptional is difficult, in any facet of life, yet that should be the goal, and one worth achieving.

Personal experience involved taking my van in for service this week.  During van service  time I walked to a local restaurant for breakfast, and passed a few empty buildings along the way.  As I passed them I wondered what had happened to those businesses?  It’s sad to think of the loss to the owners, employees and the city.  Numerous reasons may exist for why they failed, and I may have written about some in this blog.  Others reasons may have been out of their control yet without preparation (education, business plans, proper experiences/training, goals, job descriptions, expectations) failure is a greater possibility than success.

I do believe there is a connection between passion for a specific type of work, and success.  Wanting to own a business is not enough of a passion for success.  I would not have known my passion for human resources without direction, and the US Army.

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders

AN OVERVIEW OF IMPORTANT IDEAS IN THIS BOOK

Continued