Successful modern leaders should be supportive of staff, but should also take decisive action to maintain standards of behavior: The worst leaders are those who fail to support staff.
These conclusions came from research by The Industrial Society, carried out among 3000 business people. The survey, “Liberating Leadership,” identified 38 key competencies for leadership, and exposed some myths about modern leadership, derided by some as ‘too soft’ and people-centered.
Highest rated among the qualities was the ability to deal effectively with breaches to standards of behavior. The other main qualities were that the leaders did not take personal credit for other people’s work; listened to their staff; worked on their own learning; and were honest and truthful.
“Clearly,” the Industrial Society said, “those around successful leaders, or the observers in this research, do not have difficulty equating supportive leadership behavior with decisive action to maintain standards… above all; they appear to admire the combination of the two.”
The five weakest areas of the less successful leaders were that they failed to be sensitive to people’s feelings; failed to recognize other people’s stress; failed to develop and guide their staff; failed to encourage feedback on their own performance, and failed to consult those affected before making decisions.
The top 100 leaders identified in the study were also more critical of their shortcomings and displayed more humility than the bottom 100, who tended to have an inflated sense of their own abilities. The Society reported: “What is clear is that the most admired leaders are highly skilled in the ‘modern’ areas of leadership, but importantly they are also able to set tough standards and achieve results. Observers want leaders to combine ethical and inspirational behavior with the ability to take tough business decisions.”
By identifying the highest competency as “dealing effectively with breaches of behavior” observers are essentially saying that leaders should be decisive in tackling poor performance, the Society says. Tony Morgan, Chief Executive of the Society, commented: “Modern leadership can no longer be regarded as a soft option. This research shows that it is integrity, honesty and decisive action that mark out the truly successful leaders. Their followers have no problem equating ethics and discipline and neither should we. Leaders in all fields – from business to sport to politics – cannot escape the need to adapt to this new ‘firm but fair’ style of leadership; not if they want to remain at the top.”
Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant, and sales strategist, who has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels. He is the CEO of Top Sales Associates, Chairman of The jf Corporation and Senior Partner at the JF Consultancy, based in
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