What is the most significant predictor of great leadership?
Many leadership experts have asked and addressed the question: are leaders born or made? Our perspective—based on 20 plus years of experience—is that the best single predictor of great leadership is the commitment to self-improvement.
Self-awareness is crucial to leadership and it can be enhanced through coaching. An effective coach knows that the infrastructure of successful leadership vision and behavior is heightened self-awareness about one's motives, values, and personality traits. That's especially true within today's challenging changing environment.
The higher up you go in companies, the more you're dealing with psychological and relational issues.
Successful leadership requires astuteness about others: their emotional and strategic personal drivers; their self-interest, overt and covert. These relationship competencies rest on a foundation of self-knowledge, self-awareness. And you can't know the truth about another without knowing it about yourself.
Self-knowledge and the relational competencies they're linked with are central to an Executive's ability to formulate, articulate and lead a strategic vision for a motivated, energized organization. Self-knowledge builds clarity about objectives; it fine-tunes one's understanding of the perspectives, values, aims and personality traits of others. When that's lacking, you often see discord and conflict among members of the senior management team; or between some of its members and the CEO.
One executive we worked with was already an excellent, high-potential leader. She received first rate scores on the initial assessment we conducted. Senior management was grooming her for the CFO role. Still, as our work with her demonstrates, there is always an opportunity for improvement. When we conducted a reassessment after six months of executive coaching, her already high scores went up even more due to her:
- Her stance from the beginning was, “I will stick to this self-development plan.”
- She has a will to learn.
- She listens to other people.
- She understands that what she does impacts how others do.
- She has a deep desire to grow and to become more effective
In addition to that type of anecdotal evidence, research has been conducted that supports the assertion that executives who are committed to self-development improve as leaders.
We hear time and again from executives in coaching and their stakeholders that those who are most committed to putting in the effort to become better leaders are the ones who actually do. Data from studies at Stanford and Harvard back that up. We have found a positive correlation between a leader’s commitment to learning and self-development, and perceptions of his or her leadership effectiveness.
- Leaders who create and follow through on an action plan based on feedback from their peers, boss, and direct reports are perceived as being more effective than those who do not.
- There is a positive correlation between stakeholders’ perceptions of leaders’ effectiveness and the degree to which they are observed to be following up on their action plan for improvement. Following up takes commitment. It means not only working to improve but also going back periodically to stakeholders (whoever who provided the feedback) and having a dialog about progress.
- Clients who commit to engaging in Executive Coaching self-report growth in leadership abilities.
Obviously, two things are at work here: one is the commitment to do it and the other is the actual benefit from the work they put into the coaching experience itself.
Having innate talent never hurts. However, we have seen that executives who work on improving their leadership and demonstrate their commitment to improve are seen as more effective leaders, regardless of what their starting point was. Clearly, those who are open to feedback, open to coaching and learning, will always have an edge in this world. What does this imply for your future success?
- What are you doing today for your continued professional and personal growth and success?
- from people who are impacted by you as a leader and even as a person in your life (e.g., friends, spouse…).
- to learn how you come across to others. What do they see as your development needs and your strengths?
- . You may do this alone or with an executive coach.. When is the last time you took any courses or training?
- …the key is to find someone you believe in who has the confidence to tell it like they see it and is smart enough to call you on your bluffs. No matter how senior you are, these partnerships are invaluable to leaders, particularly at the top.