“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.
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