There is a lot of literature out there on the qualities of good leaders and managers. It can be difficult to take these disparate ideas and boil them down to a concise set of capabilities to develop in order to be effective in the workplace. When I am asked to provide such references, my criteria for suggesting resources are (1) they make clear recommendations, and (2) they are evidence- or research-based. One such report released by Gallup last year is State Of The American Manager: Analytics And Advice For Leaders.

Gallup defines a manager as “someone who is responsible for leading a team toward common objectives.” According to their research, only 18% of current managers have the talent needed for their roles. Too often, instead of managers being chosen for talent, these decisions are based on employees’ past experience or tenure within the company, or the position is given to reward performance in a different type of role. There is a real cost to this – Gallup estimates that the cost to the U.S. economy of having the wrong people in the wrong positions is $319 to $398 billion every year.

Gallup finds that the talent combination needed to be a great manager exists in only about 1 in 10 of working people in the U.S. However, they estimate that an additional 2 in 10 people have some of the needed capabilities and can be successful managers if they are supported with coaching and other development opportunities. The effort to identify and develop this talent is worth it. Gallup found that companies that hire managers based on talent see a 48% increase in profitability, a 22% increase in productivity, and a 19% decrease in employee turnover.

So what is the magic talent combination? Gallup found five attributes that are the greatest predictors of leader performance across industries and management levels:

  • They engage and motivate employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They drive outcomes and are able to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They solve complex issues and problems by thinking ahead, taking an analytical approach, and planning for contingencies.
  • They create and support a culture of accountability.
  • They maintain an open dialogue and full transparency, building strong relationships based on trust.

Too often, companies tend to look at other factors such as education, skills, and previous experience instead of assessing employees to see if they have, or can develop, these talents. Bad managers drive away other talented employees – nearly one in two employees have left their jobs at some point in their careers to get away from a bad manager. Good managers have an additive affect on their organizations, attracting other talented employees who want to remain at the organization. So one way to support effective leadership at your organization is to pick the right people for the job in the first place.

The second way is to see this list of capabilities as an opportunity for your company to support leaders to realize these attributes. Does your organization:

  • Have a clearly defined mission and vision? Any project or department goals and objectives should link back to the overall organization mission and vision. Have neither? Start here.
  • Insist on a culture of accountability around specific outcomes? The first step is making sure leaders create and communicate clear expectations. Not sure what that looks like? Read this.
  • Encourage your leaders to set aside time to think and plan strategically? This includes in its scope thinking ahead and considering contingencies. Need a primer? Click here.

Without capable leaders, organizations cannot motivate and engage their employees to work toward bigger-picture goals and suffer from issues such as lower productivity and employee turnover. Are you using the right criteria to fill leadership roles that are essential for organizational success? Are you supporting your leaders to be at their best?

Your questions and comments are welcomed – please leave them below, or email me. To learn about new blog posts, follow me on Twitter or look for them on the Neo-Strategic website.

  1. April 6, 2016

    A thought provoking post!

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