Leadership: 4 Skills = 90% Success

In McKinsey’s Decoding leadership: What really matters, it is suggested that the secret to developing effective leaders is to encourage just four types of behaviour.

Using 20 distinct leadership traits they surveyed 189,000 people. They divided the sample into organisations whose leadership performance was strong and those that were weak.

What they found was that:

“leaders in organisations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed 4 of the 20 possible types of behaviour; these 4, indeed, explained 89 percent of the variance between strong and weak organisations in terms of leadership effectiveness.”

The Four Types of behaviour were:

  • Solving problems effectively.
  • Operating with a strong results orientation.
  • Seeking different perspectives.
  • Supporting others.

Here’s their chart of the full 20 traits they examined:



The authors conclude:

“We do believe, however, that our research points to a kind of core leadership behaviour that will be relevant to most companies today, notably on the front line. For organisations investing in the development of their future leaders, prioritizing these four areas is a good place to start.”

I think that the report is spot on in identifying what it sees as its Top Four. They make sense intuitively as well as reflecting what we see in effective workplaces. Of course, other skills are also important. Leadership skills will always depend on the individual situation but McKinsey is stating that these Top 4 are the ones we need to work on.

So What?

The learning for me is that leadership development does need to concentrate on these four skillsets. It also suggests that 21st Century leadership (leadership for today) is not all about being the strongest and loudest; there is a more subtle requirement of our leaders to win the hearts and minds of their followers by visible actions and behaviours and not just words.

See the original article Decoding leadership: What really matters,

McKinsey Quarterly – January 2015 by Claudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol, and Ramesh Srinivasan