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Great Leaders - A Winning Way For Organizations

Championship Organizations know that great leaders make more money for the organization. Which brings us to the important questions: What is a great leader? And why does it matter?

Research from Zenger & Folkman, summarized in their ground breaking book The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, offers 20 pivotal leadership insights. Zenger & Folkman’s “objective is to provide the reader with an empirical analysis of leadership, a simple and practical conceptual model of what leadership is, and a practical guide to helping leaders develop ‘greatness.’” 

Here are some of the key insights:

(1) Leaders are good, bad or great.

(2) Great leaders make way more money for the organization than do good ones or bad ones.

(3) Great leaders are in the top 10% on 360 assessments and have at least 5 strengths at the 90th percentile on 360 assessments.

(4) Organizations have been aiming too low in their leadership development activities.

(5) Leaders can improve their leadership effectiveness through self-development and massive doses of feedback.

(6) It is better to focus on pushing out strengths then fixing jagged edges.

(7) However, If you have a fatal flaw (and there are 5 of them), it must be fixed.

I struggled to understand why more organizations don't use great leaders as a winning way. My answer came from the follow up book to The Extraordinary Leader. The Inspiring Leader picks up where The Extraordinary Leader left off. While The Extraordinary Leader looked at the important competencies for greatness, The Inspiring Leader zoned in on the “silver bullet” competency, the most powerful predictor of someone being seen as an extraordinary leader. As you can tell from the title of the book, that competency is inspiration, defined as “inspires and motivates to high performance.”

As the authors - Zenger, Folkman and Edinger - researched the competency of inspiration, here is what they uncovered: “When dealing with groups of executives, we have been surprised by the number who don’t see much of a direct link between leadership effectiveness and organizational performance... 40 percent of the leaders we encounter don’t see that direct linkage between leadership and business results.” Amazing! But it begins to explain why the message of great leaders isn’t being heard.

Finally, Zenger, Folkman and Edinger offered this golden nugget, “When we work with leaders, we occasionally hear, ‘This is common sense.’ That is true. Our response is simply, “Unfortunately, not often enough is it common practice.’” 

Here is the big secret that really isn't a secret: the uncommon practice of building winning ways within organizations is to foster great leadership.