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McKinsey, what really matters in leadership

According to a new article published by McKinsey, leadership development is receiving a renewed focus. 90% of CEOs see this as the most important people issue and plan to increase investment. The article raises the big question about what is leadership and how should CEOs best spend their money on development to ensure great leadership?  McKinsey claim to have identified the core leadership behaviours that are relevant to most organisations.

Through literature research, McKinsey identified twenty leadership traits. They then surveyed 189,000 people and found that four of the twenty behaviours were displayed within the organisations with high-quality leadership (as measured by the McKinsey’s Organisational Health Index). These four behaviours are:

  • Solving problems effectively: gathering, analysing and considering information prior to decision making.
  • Operating with a strong results orientation: prioritising high value work and following through to achieve results.
  • Seeking different perspectives: sound analysis of stakeholder concerns and encouraging employee contribution.
  • Supporting others: showing authenticity and sincere interest in people to build trust, inspiring people to overcome challenges, and resolving team concerns about external threats.

This model appeals as it connects to the central principle of Challenging Coaching and the essential link between support and challenge that leads to peak performance. The McKinsey model balances the need to support others with the challenge of achieving results. The ability to solve problems and seeking different perspectives are the moderating factors that determines and informs the leader about how much support or how much challenge should be offered.

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There are hundreds of leadership models. For example, I wrote about the traits of inspirational leadership in a previous blog (see here). With so many models claiming relevance it can be overwhelming for learning and development professionals, coaches, and leaders themselves; what is the right model? It is like stepping into a supermarket and with a shopping list provided by your partner, that, without explanation, simply says, “get food”. With thousands of food choices available in the supermarket, what food is needed; is it for a quick meal on the go, ingredients for a dinner party, or dog food? Also what is the outcome desired, for example, is it healthy low calorie food to support a new year’s resolution, or is it an indulgent one off birthday treat? 

By considering the desired outcome we can make the right choice of either food, or the most appropriate leadership model to suit our needs.

Once the leadership model has been chosen, it is then down to interpretation and application of the skills by individual leaders . Going back to our food shopping analogy, ten chefs would create ten very different dishes based on the same ingredients!

There is a process flow from input to output that could be represented as follows:

Desired organisational outcome  ==> choice of leadership model.

Personal interpretation and application of leadership model ==> actual organisational outcome.

When working with leaders, what model(s) do you use as a developmental framework? Post your thoughts in the Linked In discussion group.