There is a very important distinction between a good leader and an extraordinary one. Chances are you've had plenty of adequate bosses in your life, but there may be only one or two supervisors that stick out in your mind for their exceptional ability to lead. But what is it about these professionals that makes them stand out from the rest?
That is the question Harvard Business Review contributor Ron Carucci set out to answer in a ten-year long study on executive transitions. Extensive statistical analysis of more than 2,700 leadership interviews led Carucci to conclude that exceptional leaders, across industries, excelled in four key areas.
1. Above average decision-making skills
Leaders are tasked with making difficult decisions. It is a standard part of the job. Whether settling a dispute between two managers about how to approach a business problem or making a final call on how to deal with a client request, a leader's ability to make decisions plays a big role in their success.
Through the course of Carucci's study, he found that extraordinary decision-making was a skill held by very few leaders – making it an invaluable trait.
A McKinsey survey of over 2,200 leaders echoed the lack of great decision-makers in the workplace. Only 28 per cent of respondents claimed the strategic decision-making in their office was good. Perhaps more importantly, 60 per cent reported that the bad decisions were just as commonplace as the good decisions.
The key to good decision-making, according to Carucci, stems from an ability to strike a balance between fact-based decisions and intuition-based choices. While many leaders fall into one of the two categories, good decision-makers take both sides into consideration to choose a course of action.
2. Solid and long-lasting connections
There are many leadership skills that can be learned with some considerable effort but likability is among the hardest to teach. More often than not, either people like you or they don't. But likability is a core component of forming connections across your professional network.
The key here, in terms of leadership, involves learning how to make deep and durable connections with other professionals. Carucci's study found this ability to be the most salient skill separating exceptional leaders from adequate leaders.
Connections tend to stem from strong communication.
Strong executive relationships tended to be rooted in strong communication. When leaders were constantly engaging in meaningful conversations with their team, their leadership was more likely to be perceived as exceptional.
Inc. Magazine contributor Peter Gasca noted that being a great communicator has a lot more to do with listening than talking. Leaders that take the time to listen and ask the right questions are generally more in-tune with their team, which garners respect. This also has the added benefit of cultivating trust within your team. Showing genuine interest in their ideas and concerns, and making moves to take action can be the difference between exceptional leadership and adequate leadership.
3. A complete understanding of their business
It can be easy to fall into the executive bubble as a leader. However, the best executives have an extensive knowledge about the various moving parts in their organisation. This can transform leadership because it helps executives view business problems and solutions through a more holistic lens.
When executives approach leadership in a segmented fashion, it tends to encourage a disjointed approach to problem-solving. Instead of thinking: what is the marketing solution to this issue, what is the sales solution and what is the operational solution, exceptional bosses recognise the importance of weaving these departments together to create a more complete solution.
4. Exceptional industry knowledge
In such a digitally-advanced world, the business landscape is constantly changing. Whether it is the entrance of new competitors or more advanced technologies, extraordinary leaders are a step ahead of the curve. Instead of seeing changes as threats, they view them as opportunities and shape longer-sighted plans around them.
In times of disruption, many leaders rush to make hurried decisions, explains Carucci. Exceptional leaders rely on their reservoir of industry knowledge, and recognise that change is merely a part of the natural progression of business. They capitalise on change instead of running from it.
Acquiring exceptional leadership skills via training
With ten years of data to back these findings, Carucci has established a pretty concrete foundation for what makes up an exceptional leader. The best part about these core competencies is that they are not only teachable but deeply connected.
To make great decisions for your business, you first need to have a complete understanding of how your organisation works. To truly garner a deeper industry knowledge, you need to form strong and durable relationships – with not only your staff members, but with your peers.
Here at LMIT, we offer courses which integrate all of these skills sets. While exceptional leadership may be elusive, learning the skills to get there is easy when you train with LMIT.
Published by: LMIT