Multi-year study identifies 4 qualities of extraordinary leaders

Sometimes, despite the massive amount of effort put forth by executives/leaders, they still fail.

With this in mind, can looking more closely at the behaviour and characteristics of leaders, help us understand what distinguishing features set apart successful executives from unsuccessful ones?

This is possible, according to a ten-year long study by the consulting firm Navalent, which was discussed in the Harvard Business Review.

The study identified 4 correlated dimensions, which are present in exceptionally successful leaders/executives.

A Complete Understanding of the Business

Successful leaders know exactly how the pieces of a business fit together to deliver results.

Many executives reach their position after spending a lot of time in functions such Marketing, Operations or Finance.

It is common for them to rely on experiences and lessons gained within those functions. They also tend to favour and focus more on those parts of the business, since that’s where their familiarity and comfort-zone lies.

Successful leaders do not fall into this trap. They strive to get exposure to different parts of the organisation and focus on increasing integration and coordination between functions, while minimizing fragmentation.

Knowing the Industry Inside and Out

Great leaders stay on top of the ever-changing aspects and trends of their industry at all times. They also:

  • Maintain awareness of their organisation’s competitive position and unique selling points.
  • Stay vigilant for data that disconfirms commonly held assumptions about their organisation.

Such leaders can envision a multi-year horizon of emerging possibilities and competitive threats.

This prevents them from missing out on the right opportunities, getting outwitted by competition and making poor investment decisions.

The Ability to Form Deep Relationships

In every company there are leaders who are simply a pleasure to work with.

These executives create such demand through their ability to form deep and trusting connections with everyone around them, no matter what their level on the business totem pole may be.

They go about their daily activates in a way that benefits others in the organisation and not just themselves.

Leaders who are not as successful, often fail in this area. They spend too much time on gaming/politics and managing perceptions. They are more selfish and less genuine.

Such behaviour is often rooted in fears of political attacks, not achieving enough and appearing incompetent.

Being a Great Decision Maker

Truly successful executives are able to put forth their views clearly, while also engaging in other people’s ideas.

They can also glean key insights from available information/ideas, weigh the alternatives, make timely decisions, communicate them effectively and take responsibility for the course of action.

Such leaders master the fine balance of relying on instinct vs. analytics, and learn to “trust their gut.”

Not many executives seem to hold the rare skill of being good decision makers. According to McKinsey research, only 28% of respondents felt the quality of strategic decisions in their firm were good.

As an aspiring/existing leader, keep in mind that these 4 qualities can be learned and improved upon. Start right away by looking at the areas you need to develop the most and create an action plan to start improving.

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