Successful Leadership. What Really Works

In this months Harvard Business Review there is a great article on what sets successful leaders apart. Here is my summary from Botelho, Powell, Kincaid and Wang’s article. With some comments from me of course:

  1. This is the result of a ten year study into the specific attributes that set successful CEO’s apart – called the CEO Genome Project. Success here is defined by executives meeting or exceeding expectations in their role, according to interviews with Directors and Shareholders deeply familiar with the executives’ role. It is American and involves Fortune 500 companies. It involved tapping into a database of 17,000 assessments of executives, so a good slice of data and though American, I think the findings are very significant for any leader anywhere

  2. When the official Biographies of Fortune 500 leader’s are summarised, it is not surprising that a successful CEO looks like a charismatic six foot tall white man, with a degree from a top university, who is a strategic visionary with the ability to make perfect decisions under pressure! But very few of the successful leaders identified with that stereotype – interesting

  3. Four Behaviours were found to be crucial. These are seemingly simple, but real success comes from practice and hence consistency. The four behaviours are:

  4. Deciding with speed and conviction. The best leaders don’t necessarily stand out for making the right decisions all the time, they stand out by being more decisive. They make decisions earlier, faster and with greater conviction. A great learning here – one I absolutely agree with – is that a wrong decision is often better than no decision at all

  5. Engaging for Impact. The engagement of stake holders is central to this – be they shareholders, directors, staff, customers, suppliers. Gaining buy in to “the plan” and commitment to its execution is central to being a successful leader. We all knew this though, didn’t we? But do we always do it with total focus and commitment? Do we “Engage” often enough? Do we ensure that “Rhythm” continues, without fail?

  6. Adapting Proactively. Our business environment is changing rapidly, we all know that. The data analysis shows that leaders who adapt to change are 6.7 times more likely to succeed! We will increasingly be faced with situations that are outside the “playbook,” in fact a playbook does not exist. So we have to adapt, try new things, Think Differently (I had to get that one in!) This means we need to accept we will make mistakes. We need to accept that our staff will make mistakes, our customers, our suppliers. Everyone will make mistakes. But we must ensure we gain insights from these and take different actions as a result.

  7. Delivering Reliably. The ability to deliver results was the most important of the four essential behaviours. Those that did were 15 times more likely to be successful. Reliability is the important word here, though. This does not mean 25% return on sales one year and 5% the next. It means 15% in both years! It means that our systems and processes around success are predictable and reliable. We don’t have any “flukes.” We have expected results. Week after week, month after month.

These are simple and I’m sure most of you would have read of them before. But the fact is they are not common. We know about them but most of us don’t carry them out. Well, now is the time! Stay well, be focused and deliver reliably Cheers

Phil Pickford

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