These are the main lessons in a recent study by Chandler Macleod. Between November 2016 and March 2018 6267 Australians were assessed via an online survey. The key question of Chandler Macleod’s research was ‘what distinguishes good leadership from great leadership?’
Soft skills have emerged
The willingness and capacity of leaders to drive and shape culture is seen as the most crucial way to achieve success and effectiveness. ‘Vision & Future’, and ‘Relationship Building’ were the other two most frequently reported success factors. ‘It is interesting to note that what may have once been described as soft or fluffy skills have emerged as the most important success factors for leadership success’, Chandler Macleod concludes.
No one size fits all
Perhaps not surprisingly, perceptions of leadership success vary among different groups of workers. For example, the younger the worker, the more importance was placed on a leader’s presentation skills. Older workers tend to place more value on a leader’s ability to focus on the company’s financial success. But among all generations, culture and staff engagement was reported the top success factor. The researchers also found that there was essentially no gender difference in how successful participants perceived their leaders to be.
Implications for practice
So what are the practical implications of these perceptions on leadership? Chandler Macleod suggests that ‘what were once perceived as soft skills are becoming increasingly critical to organisations and leadership success’. ‘While vision and future focus can be seen as a fundamental, it’s a leader’s ability to effectively drive and shape culture that can make or break an organisation.’
Identify leaders at early stage
Organisations should identify leaders with such qualities at the selection and recruitment stage, suggests Chandler Macleod. ‘Incorporating specific questions at interviews, assessing capability via psychometric testing and asking targeted reference checking questions are relatively easy and cost-effective ways to ensure organisations are adequately addressing these success factors prior to making any important selection decisions.’
Furthermore, coaching should be utilised to help leaders build upon their communications and interpersonal skills.