By Victor Assad, Managing Partner.

New research from McKinsey and Company suggests that the secret to developing effective leaders is to encourage four types of behaviors.

Earlier research by McKinsey and other organizations has consistently shown that good leadership is a critical part of organizational health, which is an important driver of shareholder returns.

But what leadership behaviors should organizations encourage? Performance at all costs? Making decisions quickly? Effective communications? Building trust?

McKinsey’s most recent research of 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations on four continents suggests that a small subset of leadership skills closely correlates with leadership success, particularly among frontline leaders. McKinsey researchers found that leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed four of the 20 possible types of behavior. These four explained 89 percent of the variance between strong and weak organizations in terms of leadership effectiveness.

Below are McKinsey’s four leadership behaviors for leadership effectiveness:

  1. Solving problems effectively. The process that precedes decision making is problem solving, when information is gathered, analyzed, and considered. This is deceptively difficult to get right, yet it is a key input into decision making for major issues (such as mergers and acquisitions) as well as daily ones (such as how to handle a team dispute).
  2. Operating with a strong results orientation. Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives but also about following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.
  3. Seeking different perspectives. This trait is conspicuous in managers who monitor trends affecting organizations, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues, and give the appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Leaders who do well on this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.
  4. Supporting others. Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency, allaying unwarranted fears about external threats and preventing the energy of employees from dissipating into internal conflict.

McKinsey’s latest research matches closely the research of other organizations. For example, New research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that employees who trust their organizations are more productive, more creative, and have higher engagement. Those who don’t trust their organizations experience more stress, have higher rates of burnout, and are more likely to quit. Like the McKinsey study, the HBR article highlights the importance of supporting others and collaboration. The HBR study also found that effective teams solve problems effectively. High performing teams believe disagreement makes them better and they proactively address tension. They also seek out different perspectives and share information.

Another example is from a study from Google’s research on its workforce. Google found five dynamics of effective teams. Google discovered that who is on a team matters much less than how team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions. In the Google study, building trust to allow risk-taking in solving problems is one of the top five dynamics of effective teams.

Finally, the research from InnovationOne, LLC, has shown that the most effective teams are those with employees who are empowered to solve problems quickly, reach out to experts across the organization and external stakeholders for diverse information and opinions (also known as cognitive diversity), and who feel valued and recognized for their knowledge, skills, and contributions.

To learn more about these other studies that provide further insights on team success, please read my blog, “Workers who trust each other are more productive and innovative.”

The research is clear. Developing good leadership behaviors is a critical part of organizational health, including improving shareholder returns. The key behaviors of outstanding leaders include: solving problems effectively (which requires building trust), operating with a results orientation, seeking different perspectives, and supporting others.

What are you doing to develop these behaviors with your leaders?

About InnovationOne®, LLC.

InnovationOne®, LLC helps organizations worldwide build a culture of innovation and make it sustainable. InnovationOne® uses a scientifically developed assessment to measure, benchmark, and improve your company’s culture and capability to innovate and enjoy better outcomes and financial results. We have conducted research with The Conference Board and the US Department of Energy. Companies scoring in the top quartile of our InnovationOne Culture Index© reported higher financial performance than bottom quartile performers by as much as 22 percent. US Department of Energy labs scoring high on our assessment can have up to 3x higher performance over the lower scoring labs. Measure and ignite your culture of innovation.