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Leadership Keys

Effective leadership is critical to the health and success of an organization. The question is, with so many books and articles about leadership, what behaviors are the most important? Research done by the multi-national consultancy firm, McKinsey and Company, reveals a specific set of skills that closely relate to leadership success. These leadership keys can help your organization run smoothly.

McKinsey conducted extensive research combining findings from academic literature along with their own survey of 189,000 people in 81 diverse companies around the world. Their aim was to understand the kinds of leadership behaviors demonstrated in organizations. Coming up with a list of 20 leadership traits they further distilled that down to four that are consistently displayed in organizations with high-quality leadership teams.

Solving Problems Effectively: While problem solving is surely a daily task for any leader there is both an art and science to doing it well. Information has to be gathered, analyzed and weighed. While on the surface this may seem easy we must remember that decisions come out of solving problems, so if done poorly that could be disastrous for the organization. The skilled leader understands this so he/she takes time and care in solving problems, especially important ones.

Operating with a Strong Results Orientation: Leaders must achieve results. Simply setting goals and objectives and a communicating a vision is not sufficient. If results aren’t attained then the rest doesn’t matter. According to McKinsey, leaders who are results oriented emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity.

Seeking Different Perspectives: The savvy leader seeks ideas from others, puts issues into perspective, grasps changes in the environment and weighs stakeholder concerns. These different perspectives blend together giving the leader a view of the larger landscape. Leaders who effectively seek different perspectives make decisions on sound analysis rather than bias. Others around them also notice how they use various angles and pieces of information to reach a healthy conclusion.

Supporting Others: Leaders who genuinely demonstrate an interest in others garner trust which is of paramount important in any organization. Such leaders also help colleagues through challenges. In other words by supporting others leaders help both the individuals and the organization succeed.

McKinsey and Company’s research indicate that these key leadership behaviors promote organizational effectiveness. Putting into practice these behaviors is one way you can drive success forward.


Heather Backstrom is an executive coach, leadership development consultant and speaker. She has a doctorate in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University. She can be reached at

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