How A+ Leaders Leverage Their Top Four Strengths

Richard Earle Ph.D. Managing Director, Canadian Institute of Stress & Vital Corporation Inc.

McKinsey Quarterly [Jan 2015] pinpoints the top four leadership traits which predict 89% of the variance between strong and weak organizations internationally. A+ leaders consistently contribute these four strengths:

♦  Strong results orientation
♦  Reliance on different viewpoints on a problem
♦  Understanding and supporting co-workers in their work challenges and
♦  Implementing and managing solutions to ensure their planned results

Acid Test of A+ Leadership: Making Corporate Change Successful

Leading the charge in today’s climate of mission-critical corporate change can be a career crowning or a prematurely graying experience. My 20 years of coaching senior executives highlights this as an ever more frequent challenge.

More importantly, Vital Corporation’s self-profiling data from >28,400 executive clients highlights which of their personal traits can become either stumbling blocks or stepping stones in their leading change at full A+ potential.

Underlying these predictive traits, we’ve discovered one trait which sets A+ leaders apart from those “performing at potential”. And I suspect this theme underlies all four of McKinsey’s top leadership traits.

Hallmark Strength that Sets A+ Leaders Apart

To ensure that ambitious, often disruptive changes take root, A+ leaders separate themselves from the pack by their ability to attract and consistently engage results-focused followers. Whatever the size of their egos or of their past achievements, A+ leaders accept and rely on one fact: “Change is as change does … and the people do the doing”.
Virtually every executive knows, intellectually, that leaders need followers. However, for 34% of our executive study group, two sets of factors seem to make putting this insight into action difficult for them. They may know it, but they do it inconsistently; often waking up at 4:30 A.M, still second guessing themselves about “How can I make these changes actually work?”
Evidence-based A+ Leadership Development
When coaching individual executives or designing a boot camp workshop for high-potential leaders, evidence-based diagnostics focus the Vital Corporation approach. Findings from our profiling data base [N = 28,410 Canadian executives] highlight two factors strongly predicting which executives report top quartile [A+] vs. bottom quartile success as evaluated by their peers and their company.

Boxes “A” and “B” above are snapshot summaries of these two predictive factors and of the percentages of executives who report them as stepping stones energizing their day-to-day performance. Box B traits – on-the-job leadership style – clearly impact McKinsey’s effectiveness markers. These “B” traits showcase how this 65% group of A+ executives relate to and are seen by those they lead: as “someone I want to follow”.
More importantly, the Box A traits signal how deeply personal being an A+ leader really is. These four traits summarize what we call their “personal ROI in working life”. Not surprisingly, what they feel “I’m getting back from what I’m putting in at work” flows directly through to outcomes in Boxes “B” and “C”. When personal ROI is a stumbling block, leadership potential is unnecessarily hamstrung. After all, following a low “personal ROI” leader is not attractive to staff.
Getting to the root of this follower challenge with these 35% of executives is typically straightforward:
1. Leveraging their profile’s strengths, and
2. Reframing stumbling blocks as opportunities to develop proven insights and skills for building win-win reliance with their staff.
Leveraging full A+ leadership potential depends on insightful front-end diagnostics which a) clarify an evidence-based personalized roadmap for each participant, and then b) deeply motivate and enable them to enjoy working at their full A+ potential.