“Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth." — James MacGregor Burns
Given the results of some recent research, this no longer appears to be the case. While it is not easy, we know what it takes to be a great leader. Our research suggests that two fundamental behavioral competencies are essential at every level of management, from First/Intermediate-Level all the way to CEO. These competencies are: Leads Decisively and Thrives in Chaos.
Leads Decisively: Managers at all levels demonstrate a strong and forceful leadership style and a readiness to influence others directly.
Thrives in Chaos: All people managers are shown to be highly efficient under seemingly chaotic demands and overlapping priorities.
Our research also shows that different competencies are necessary at each leadership stage. We identified nine keys First/Intermediate-Level Management competencies, ten critical Senior-Level Management competencies, and ten crucial C-Level Management competencies. In addition to the two fundamental competencies, specific competencies are key in more than one level as one progresses up the ladder. We explain not only core competencies by level, but also address transitions between levels. Some stay important through a leadership transition, and some behaviors are less relevant, and therefore their demonstration must be adjusted to be an effective leader.
Using this model can help organizations identify high potential employees for succession planning and talent management initiatives as well provide a basis for meaningful individual career planning one, two and three moves ahead. Our customers are calling it a game changer.
The benefits of the Ladder of Leadership study are enormous. The behaviors and competencies are listed clearly – no contradictions, no vague statements. In our practice we will use to help clients:
- Develop and prepare first level leaders for the next level up.
- Identify the critical gaps for leaders in prime positions that will keep them from achieving their goals.
- Identify high but hidden-potential performers for executive team positions.
Of course, we are not measuring pieces of metal or working with a chemical mix when we deal with talent management; we will always have some human factors that will come into play and influence the solutions and decisions. However, adding solid science and rigor to our practices will make a significant impact on the business results and the appreciation of the talent management professional contribution.
All leadership skills are learnable, including the ten described below. Behavioral traits are hardwired and challenging to change. You develop strategies to ensure that your weaker traits are managed. What differentiates you from the pack is your strong traits.
The most successful among us are walking flaws who have maximized one or two strengths.” —Tim Ferriss
Build your leadership talent stack — skills, knowledge, accomplishments and behavioral traits.
You do not need to attempt to learn all these skills at once. Choose the one leadership skill that will have the most significant impact on your life and start there. Work tirelessly to perfect that skill. Then, when you have mastered the first skill, move on to the next skill that will benefit you the most. Your career is a journey. Enjoy the trip.
Leadership development consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman published the results of a study they conducted on the skills that leaders need to succeed in their current positions. They asked more than 300,000 business leaders to rank the top four competencies from a list of 16 fundamental leadership skills.
After working through the results, Zenger and Folkman came up with a ranking of the leadership skills that are most important for success. Here are the top ten.
1. Inspires and motivates others
Great leaders create a vision of the future that is vivid and compelling, and that motivates employees to want to achieve it. Everyone wants to work for a company that makes a difference in the world. As a leader, you are best able to help the members of your team connect what they do to the impact it has on customers and communities.
2. Displays high integrity and honesty
Great leaders are honest and transparent and have high integrity--they do what they say they are going to do, and they walk their talk. As Umpqua Bank CEO Ray Davis said in his book Leading Through Uncertainty, "I always tell our people that they are entitled to get answers to every question they have. ... That does not mean they are going to like the answers. However, it is going to be truthful, and I know they can deal with the truth. This might create additional questions, but we will get through them. Moreover, we do."
3. Solves problems and analyzes issues
Ultimately, leaders are recruited, trained, and chosen to solve organizational problems and to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace. This requires not only excellent analytical abilities but also above-average people skills.
4. Drives for results
Some people are happy to sit back and watch the world go by, while others are not unless they are making things happen in their organizations. Great leaders have a higher level of perseverance, stick-to-itiveness, and drive than most anyone else, and they can be counted on to get things done.
5. Communicates powerfully and prolifically
Great leaders communicate with their people often, and in a variety of ways. Whether it is using one-on-one conversations, team meetings, blog posts, email messages, phone or Skype calls, or any other medium, leaders do not talk about communicating--they do it.
6. Builds relationships
Business is built on a solid foundation of relationships and trust. Without these two things, you cannot have a business, or at least not a successful business. Take time every day to build relationships with the members of your team, your customers and vendors, your boss and your boss's boss, others in your industry, and your community. The stronger your relationships, the better a leader you will be.
7. Displays technical or professional expertise
Most leaders start out in business with a specific skill, such as selling or accounting or designing software. The best leaders build on their technical and professional skills over time, becoming valuable experts in their field and skilled at leading their team.
8. Displays a strategic perspective
Great leaders have a long-term vision of the future, and they avoid getting bogged down in the here and now. While they can be tactical when necessary, they maintain the strategic outlook necessary to guide their businesses to the best future possible.
9. Develops others
Just as they work to develop and build their own technical and professional expertise continuously, the best leaders set aside time (and money in their budgets) to develop their workforce. They look for the most promising employees and provide them with the training they need to become their company's next generation of great leaders.
According to General Electric's 2012 Global Innovation Barometer, which polled 2,800 senior executives on the state of innovation around the world, 92 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that "innovation is the main lever to create a more competitive economy." The ability to innovate is a crucial skill for every great leader.
Our list of leadership competencies and the Zenger and Folkman’s ranking of the leadership skills are useful for leadership development. However, you need to go much deep when selecting a leader. Our benchmarks are derived from the behavioral traits of a high performer in the same role. They share a common set of traits. These traits vary. We have unique benchmarks for over 300 leadership roles.
The traits required to be a CEO of a $1B+ company are different from those for a $10M company. Increasingly, more and more business, HR, and recruiting leaders are recognizing that it is not just a candidate’s experience that matters. Making a great hire is about more than what someone has done; it is about their behavior – how they have done things and how they will do things in the future. Getting behavior wrong can be a considerable risk, especially in high-visibility, high-impact roles like CEOs.
Great leaders know that succession planning is an essential part of doing business, no matter how certain your future appears. It is easy to put off planning when everything seems to be going so well, right? Wrong. Now is the time to begin succession planning. Our Ladder of Leadership gives you a tool that will work across your organization. Here are some reasons why it can not — and should not — wait as succession planning helps you:
- Protect the legacy of your business
- Build value for your business
- Meet demands for additional corporate leaders resulting from growth
- Provide financial security for your stakeholders
- Prepare for the future
- Identify employees who have the current skills—or the potential to develop skills—that can help them move up in an organization
- Avoid losing key employees
- Fill openings created by retirements, unexpected departures, or unexpected events (illness, accident or death)
Our scientifically proven accuracy: 85%. We continually endeavor to maintain the highest level of psychometric standards as defined by the American Psychological Association’s Category 1 or Publisher’s Category “C” assessment requirements.
That power is resonating. SuccessFinder is already in use by CEOs, Board of Directors, HR leaders and Organizational Development counselors to lend science to high impact hiring, development and succession plans for their talent.
It is incredibility fulfilling to understand the impact on individuals to find and pursue more meaningful, rewarding careers. Self-efficacy is the foundation for SuccessFinder. Its thesis is: whatever human beings can imagine is what they can do. If you can believe it, then you know you can do it.
How to make remarkable talent management decisions
Our best-fit staffing process makes easier and better talent management decisions. We predict, if a candidate is likely to meet or exceed expectations. We can provide a quality assurance assessment of your final choice or assist you through the recruitment process. Candidates are assessed against benchmarks of high performers in the same role, so you know that you are genuinely getting a top performer and not just the best of a bad lot! Send us an email. We would love to hear from you! We offer the service worldwide.
In the paper we share the competencies that are:
- Always On: Only two behaviors from manager to C-Suite
- Leap: “Bridging” behaviors for moving between each management level
- Lead: Unique behaviors for every stage of management
- Leave Behinds: The “once and done” list— good only for where you are, not where you’re going