- BRW Lists
Published 12 March 2014 05:15, Updated 13 March 2014 11:03
Joe Folkman, author of The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders
To be a really great leader, all you need is to be able to do two or three things really well.
There are 16 leadership competencies – skills required for leadership – but you are better off developing a few things you already do well, than stressing out about your weaknesses.
This is the view of United States leadership development expert, Dr Joe Folkman, and it is music to my ears.
For a long time, we have been encouraged to believe that great leaders are almost superhuman and that is such an unattainable state of being that most of us would never attempt it. But Folkman, a psychometrician who studies survey data, says the best leaders aren’t great at all the leadership competencies.
However, they are superb at two or three. Just try not to be really, really bad at any of them.
If any were a “fatal flaw” then that would require fixing, says Folkman, founder of leadership development firm Zenger Folkman and author of The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders.
If you have just one strength, you will move from the 34th to the 64th percentile of effective leaders, he says.
That’s not bad. “It doubles the percentage of effectiveness if they do one thing well,” he says. But adding two more strengths has an exponential impact.
“If people have three strengths, their average effectiveness moves into the 81st percentile.” That would make you one of the best leaders around.
Not all competencies are created equal, however. The two most important are “driving performance” and “being an inspirational leader”.
The first skill is relatively easy. It is about setting goals, pushing and driving people on. We all pretty much know how to do that.
In a survey of 630 Australian leaders, driving performance was their fourth-best competency, after “technical and professional excellence”, “honesty and high integrity” and “taking the initiative”.
But the other most important skill, “inspires and motivates others”, was second-last on the Australian rating. The only thing we do worse is “practice self-development”.
Before we beat ourselves up about this, it is worth knowing that it is not just Australians who have a problem with being inspiring.
It is a global issue, says Folkman, who is in Australia on behalf of his company’s local partner, RogenSi.
Being inspiring is a more complex skill than chivvying people along and we tend not to know how to do it.
Taken on their own, each of the two most important competencies can raise a leader’s performance.
If you can inspire people, but are not so good at driving performance, you will have a 10 per cent chance of being a good leader.
If, instead, you are a great performance driver, but not so inspiring, you only have a 5 per cent chance of being good.
But magic happens when the two come together. If you are good at both, you have an 85 per cent chance of being a great leader, says Folkman.