Developing capability and improving the performance of CEO’s and senior management teams is about much more than setting financial and operational targets. Whilst we all really know this the issue was brought in to sharp focus when I chaired my Elite Leaders group last week.
The group contained 11 talented CEO’s across multiple sectors and in our business review they had delivered in excess of 20% year on year growth in net fee income. However when it came to identifying what they feel defines quality leadership the results were as far from the traditional image of the management culture of a recruitment firm as you could imagine.
This whole issue was explored by specialist speaker Michael Nicholas who demonstrated that the route to improved performance came as much from the emotional intelligence of business leaders as it did from their technical skills. I know this is an old chestnut and you think these soft issues have their place but they are no substitute for strong tough leadership.
Michael did one very simple exercise that in my opinion proved the point. He asked all the CEOs in the room to bring to mind the best manager they had ever had in their careers. He then asked them to define the 4 or 5 characteristics that made this person so special. Give or take one or two points the entire group produced the same list and not one of them included any technical or operational skills amongst them.
Two words stood out for me; warmth and authentic.
Michael demonstrated that providing a leaders approach to their people was authentic, not invented, then showing warmth towards their people was the single biggest contributor to an organisations financial and operational performance.
What was my take from this; well I believe that great technical skills are essential in any leader however in this new age of leadership they are only really the entry ticket to get the job in the first place. To use those technical skills and drive great performance needs the personal skills that engage top quality people and create belief.