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This One Trait Helps Differentiate Between Good and Great Leadership

Fifth in the series — “Solve problems effectively”*

The last trait that the study showed as separating great leaders from good leaders was “solve problems effectively”. I believe the key word here is “effectively” and I believe that one word has three components. Effectively means…

Right assumptions: No matter what the problem, there are assumptions that have to be made. Leaders know when the assumption base is reasonable, and when it is high risk. Great leaders drive to ensure the key components needed to effectively solve the problem are pursued. Great leaders have great filters.

Sustainability: Anyone can solve a problem for a day (OK, most anyone). Great leaders don’t solve a problem – they eliminate problems.

Communication: Ever heard the question — If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If you solve a problem and don’t tell anyone, is the problem really solved? Sharing the solution ensures the team knows, and thus can trust, that the issue won’t come back. It also allows others to benefit as they might be able to apply your solution elsewhere.

Be intentional,

* Quote Article|McKinsey Quarterly
Decoding leadership: What really matters
January 2015 | by Claudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol, and Ramesh Srinivasan

Seeking New Perspectives? Apply Within.


Nothing beats a fresh perspective. (Except this with a cup of coffee… perhaps?)

Fourth in the series — “seeking different perspectives”*

I like the show Elementary – a modern day version of the classic Sherlock Homes. He is all about using deduction to solve a mystery or problem. One of the things he does when stuck is to look at the clues from a different perspective. Sometimes standing on his head, sometimes laying down. When asked, he simply states he is seeking a new angle to the problem.

The third trait that the McKinsey study found that successful leaders did well was “seeking different perspectives”. Like Sherlock, good problem solvers always strive to see their problems from different angles, coming at the issue at hand in a new way. The age old saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results” rings true to successful leaders.

So what really makes “seeking different perspectives” a trait that separates good from great leaders”? I think it is the “seeking”. It did not say “try different perspectives”, “find different perspectives”, or even ” use different perspectives”. Nope, the word is “seek”.

The verb seek, according to the dictionary is to:
: search for (someone or something)
: try to find (someone or something)
: ask for (help, advice, etc.)
: try to get or achieve (something)

When you seek, you are actively engaging different people on you team. You are seeking input, maybe even if it is not a problem yet. Seeking perspective on current state, future concerns, or just seeking a different perspective on feedback.

While I do not recommend standing on your head, I do suggest finding different ways to change how you are processing the world around you. How can you drive improvement where you see none? Where can you eliminate waste, when from your perspective there is none? Seek.

“Seeking different perspectives” is partly engaging your team to see and drive improvements.

Be intentional


*Article|McKinsey Quarterly
Decoding leadership: What really matters
January 2015 | byClaudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol, and Ramesh Srinivasan

Is “How” leading your “Where”?

Third of our five part series on Keys to Leadership Success – Operate with strong results orientation


Camelback Mountain. 1,264 feet straight up. Know your climb ahead.

One could say that the point of leading is to take someone or a group somewhere. If you have nowhere to go, there really is no leading involved.

The second key trait in our series is “operate with strong results orientation”. I translate this to mean know what destination you are leading to and focus on winning the war. In the world of manufacturing, finance, marketing, business at large – disruption, chaos, and minor set-backs happen in the micro. As leaders, we must keep the flag of the macro goal held high in the air for the team to see through the cloud of the moment. We must always be personally operating with the mind set of delivering results – sustainable results. Leading your team with clarity of the goal means understanding the trade-offs necessary to win the war, not just the battle.

Also, personally, you not only have to be clear in your mind what results you want and you must be clear on what is acceptable behaviors in obtaining those results. Do you value the how as much as the deliverable? As a leader, you are accountable for the cultural foundation that results are based on.


Not quite at 1,264 feet yet, but I say celebrate the small victories along the way. (And yes, that is the trail…)

If you drive winning the battle at all costs, you will lose the war. It is possible to achieve the business goal AND achieve it with the values the company espouses. It might be harder, but as a leader it is your actions that results are really based on — both for business goals and for foundational values (there are no short cuts allowed with the “how”, integrity is black & white).

Be intentional

*Article|McKinsey Quarterly
Decoding leadership: What really matters
January 2015 | byClaudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol, and Ramesh Srinivasan

What’s Your Key to Unlocking Leadership?

Where's Your Key?

Where’s Your Key?

Across the country, millions of dollars are spent on teaching people about leadership. MBAs, corporate training, self-help seminars and conferences all seem to sell the magic elixir for being a great leader. However the foundational question is – what really works? What are the key, most important skills that make a leader successful. Instead of learning / mastering 100 things, or keeping up with “the flavor of the month” – what is the secret key that unlocks successful performance.

We all want to get better, to grow. But we have a limited amount of time and money to invest in our development. Can someone please just tell us what really works?

McKinsey Quarterly shared information on a recent scientific study that targeted just this question. What they reported was “leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed 4 of the 20 possible types of behavior; these 4, indeed, explained 89 percent of the variance between strong and weak organizations in terms of leadership effectiveness”.*

Whether you are in an informal leadership role or a formal one, focusing on four known traits that can change you from weak to strong is a great place to start focusing as the new year starts.

The traits are…

  • Be supportive
  • Operate with strong results orientation
  • Seek different perspectives
  • Solve problems effectively

Over the next four weeks we will explore some thoughts on these proven action oriented traits. My challenge to you is… as you go through leadership situations this next week, think about how you applied these four action oriented traits.

Be intentional,


*Decoding leadership: What really matters, January 2015 | byClaudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol, and Ramesh Srinivasan