Enduring organizational success takes more than well-developed business acumen alone. A comprehensive study of high-performing organizations and their leadership teams yielded some surprising results. Essential skills that matter most are sometimes referred to as “soft”. They are anything but!
A recent issue of the Harvard Business Review featured an article titled “The C-Suite Skills That Matter Most…More than ever, companies need leaders who are good with people”. No kidding!
To be sure, technical skills, strong business and financial acumen, a savvy sense of markets and administrative/organizational ability are still on the list of requirements for executive success. These are best deployed by individuals who have superior interpersonal skills and, yes are “good with people”.
Some years ago, more than one hundred industry companies were identified as posting superior results, each quarter over a period of ten consecutive years. They significantly outperformed industry averages in areas including organic sales growth, value added, profitability and employee and customer retention. As part of an academic research study, we endeavored to find out more about these businesses and, in particular, their CEO’s and their relationship with their leadership teams.
Three survey instruments were used and were complimented by in-depth interviews with the CEO’s. The baseline for leadership competencies was built upon James MacGregor Burns’ three primary types of leadership; laissez-faire (letting things go without much intervention or active participation) transactional (where fair exchange, or “quid pro quo” is the sole focus of relationship) and transformational (where leaders focus on the beliefs, needs and values of their team members and look to develop the full potential of each to the benefit of all stakeholders).
Among the conclusions of this study, these highly successful leaders overwhelmingly viewed themselves as transformational (perhaps not surprising) and so did their leadership teams. To see alignment around this important, core leadership essential is noteworthy. That is correlates with enduringly superior business performance should not go without notice.
Four key transformational leadership traits stood out: Humility, Understanding, Gratitude and Empathy. In other words, these leaders are “good with people” and it doesn’t happen by accident. They work at it.
These CEO’s placed great emphasis on relationships with stakeholders and credited this as a major reason for their sustained success.
Clearly, being “good with people” is not something that is nice to have but not essential to success. Combined with other needed attributes, highly developed interpersonal skills can spell the difference between average to good performance and sustained, superior results. These skills are anything but “soft”. And they can be taught, developed, practiced, and improved with intention and dedication over time. For more information on determining your C-Suite’s level of leadership competency, contact me at email@example.com.