What Leadership Skills Really Matter?

IMG_4140What makes a great leader? As I have previously written (see: One Secret to Finding Happiness: Using Your Strengths), research seems to indicate that there isn’t a specific trait that makes a great leader. In his 3 decades of research, Donald Clifton found that there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders. He found instead that great leaders truly know their strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time.

That is great news, because it means that we can be authentic and develop our own unique set of strengths and still be an effective leader.

However, new research conducted by McKinsey shows that there is something else that makes great leaders. In a survey of 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations, they found 4 types of leadership behaviors that leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically display. These 4 behaviors account for 89% of leadership effectiveness.  (See: Decoding Leadership  for more details.)

What are these 4 behaviors?

1. Solving problems effectively

In order to make good decisions, strong leaders make sure they gather, analyze and consider all critical information. This can be difficult to get right, whether the decision involves something big, like an acquisition or handling a team dispute.

2. Operating with a strong results orientation

It’s not enough to create a vision and set objectives, but also to follow through and achieve results. Great leaders prioritize the highest value work and focus on efficiency and productivity.

3. Seeking different perspectives

In order to avoid making biased decisions, effective leaders look at trends and seek input from others, giving appropriate weight to concerns.

4. Supporting others

Exceptional leaders understand and sense how people feel  They build trust and help others overcome challenges by being authentic and showing a sincere interest in those around them.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all leaders – whether at work or in our life. We can continue to develop our strengths and lead in our own unique way AND decide which behaviors we want to practice more. Which of the 4 behaviors are you already good at? Which one do you want to focus on more?


Manuela is helping smart and creative women be happier with themselves and their lives! Visit Manuela’s Website for Professional Life Coaching.

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