Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Effective Leaders: "Nice Guys" Not Required

You may be surprised by what it takes to be a top-performing leader. Recent research suggests that CEOs who are persistent, efficient and proactive are the most successful. Executives who are described as team players, flexible and good listeners are less successful because, despite their “soft skills,” they do not get things done. Steven N. Kaplan, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, described these findings at a presentation in Shanghai that I attended in June. He based his comments on his quantitative study of entrepreneurs who led their companies to successful outcomes.

Employees are most positive when they feel their company is making progress and they are being helped to succeed, Professor Kaplan noted. CEOs who set high standards, focus on planning and execution and hold people accountable are more likely to eliminate roadblocks and get things done.

Steve Jobs and Jack Welsh are two CEOs with reputations as outstanding leaders but not as nice guys. During their tenures, the stock prices of their respective companies, Apple and GE, soared. GE stock has declined under the helm of Jeff Immelt, whom The New York Times described as having “the whole range of ‘softer skills.’”

How can Professor Kaplan’s findings be used to identify great leaders for your organization? As you interview and assess candidates, focus on the individual’s ability to meet and exceed goals, deliver results (quantified where possible) and perform against corporate objectives. Accomplishment in these practical areas will help you determine whether your candidate is persistent, efficient and pro-active. They may be better indicators of effectiveness than leading teams or demonstrating “emotional intelligence.”
For more information about Professor Kaplan’s presentation, please e-mail me.

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