As leaders we seldom take inventory of our own strengths and weaknesses. Often our perception is different from how others perceive us. We can easily become our worst enemy. Self-Awareness is a Critical Trait for Successful Leaders.
I recently discovered an article in Forbes magazine during my “self-development time.” The following synthesis, I believe, will add value to your leadership journey.
For years I have pondered the effectiveness of “autocratic” versus “collaborative” leadership styles. Is one better than the other? My instincts and actual practice sided with being collaborative. Yet, I observed and experienced work environments where being tough and bottom line focussed was the “modus operandi” of its leadership.
I asked my myself the questions: Were these leaders successful? Were they adding value to the degree that they could have? Were they really “self-aware” and cognizant of their impact on others?
I was a bit relieved when I read a recent study conducted by Green Peak Partners International Consulting in partnership with Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations department, entitled “When It Comes to Business Leadership, Nice Guys Finish First.” Their study showed that conventional wisdom is wrong — and that leaders who possess strong soft skills perform better at driving hard results.
The study explored the leadership styles, backgrounds and track records of 72 senior executives across 31 companies (half of them with C-level or President titles) at public, venture-backed, and private-equity sponsored companies.
“Results-at-all costs” Leadership Does Not Work
We’re all familiar with the picture of the hard-charging, take no-prisoners leader, “results-at-all-costs” executive. This type of manager doesn’t care much for people’s feelings and doesn’t spend much time on “soft skills,” but who wins loyalty of boards, investors, and ultimately staff because he or she drives results. It’s the results that matter, so the thinking goes, and concern with the staff’s happiness, their feelings, their motivation, and their sense of feeling wanted and needed is a distraction from what really matters: the bottom line. The study comments, “That’s a wonderful story. It satisfies our ideas about what it means to be tough, to be focused, to know what really matters, and to approach business as though it were sort of a machine — a collection of tasks and processes in which people, messy, inefficient people, just get in the way.”
Green Peak states, “The only problem is that it isn’t remotely true, even when focused solely on growth, profitability, ROI, and other core financial metrics.” The study adds, “In fact, executives who lack interpersonal skills — executives who just focus on numbers and processes and wreak havoc on their people — perform badly overall except in the short-term.”
“Executives who are good “people managers” (i.e. possess strong core leadership skills) on the other hand, produce better strategic and financial performance as well.”
People minded “self-aware” leaders drive hard results
The study goes on to clarify that the people minded leaders should not be interpreted as pushovers or “doormat executives” either. Soft values driven leaders who are self-aware, able to to hold teams accountable, and who can execute tough decisions in an inspiring, non-abusive manner, can lead highly profitable companies.
Soft values driven leaders who are self-aware, able to to hold teams accountable, and who can execute tough decisions in an inspiring, non-abusive manner, can lead highly profitable companies.
The solution: Refocus
Leadership searches give short shrift to “self-awareness,” which should actually be a top criterion. A high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success. “Executives who are aware of their weaknesses are often better able to hire subordinates who perform well in areas in which the leader lacks acumen,” said Dr. Winkler of Green Peak Partners.
There are limits on the degree to which someone can improve his or her basic ability to interact well with others, which means that focusing on interpersonal skills when selecting the right candidate becomes critical. The challenge is that these qualities often aren’t revealed by resumes, references and interview techniques. Therefore, what’s really needed is a change in focus: HR practitioners, executive search firms and management teams need to focus not only on what executive candidates do, but also on how they do it.
At Inscape Consulting, one of our many services is providing psychometric assessment tools. A psychometric test aims to provide measurable, objective data that can give you a better all-round view of a candidate’s suitability. It could be argued that psychometric testing offers some ‘scientific’ credibility and objectivity to the process of recruiting. It perhaps provides a more fair and accurate way of assessing a candidate, as all applicants will be given a standardized test. Furthermore, assessment tools can greatly enhance talent development within your company by providing immediate feedback on employee strengths and areas for improvement.
Wishing you a great week!