Are You a Good Leader? 4 Traits for Leadership Success
I know many of my blog readers are senior marketing and fundraising folks—and with this comes the need to be good leaders and take on leadership roles.
And, as you read this, I am sure we can all come up with examples throughout our careers where we have been less than stellar leaders and when we have had less than stellar leaders in our midst. You know what the problem is? It is such a debate when it comes to defining exactly what a good leader is. There are leadership courses, books and seminars, but, in the end, it is all so very debatable. But “leadership” is a critical element in business. McKinsey reported “over 90 percent of CEOs are already planning to increase investment in leadership development because they see it as the single most important human-capital issue their organizations face.” So, for something that is perceived to be this critical for success, it certainly needs clearer definition and structure.
Well, when someone publishes some marketing research based on real-life leaders and company success—I sit up a little straighter in my seat and take note. Are you a leader? Are you a leader who wants to know what the data says about leadership traits and documented success? McKinsey conducted a data-based, research-based study and has identified the four traits of leadership that matter the most when it comes to success. Here are the details:
- The researchers started with a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits from across their own experiences and relevant academic literature.
- Then they surveyed 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations around the world to assess how frequently certain kinds of leadership behavior were applied within those organizations.
- Next, they reviewed data based on organizations where leadership performance was strong (the top quartile of leadership effectiveness as measured by McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index) and where it was weak (bottom quartile).
The outcome? There are only a small subset of leadership skills that closely correlate with leadership success, particularly among frontline leaders.
But according to McKinsey, these are the four that we should all be focused on perfecting. These four will help to not only secure the success of our organizations but our own personal success for our teams. Here are McKinsey's exact words relative to these four traits:
- 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.
I urge all of you to think through this list. I feel like I’ve led some pretty good teams in the past and I hope that I was a good leader, but I can find elements of each of these traits where I can be better, stronger and/or more focused.
Think through this if you are a leader—I’m convinced that no matter how old we are or how long we’ve been working we can constantly be learning and improving.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.