Does leadership matter?

There’s no doubt that our personality, in one way or another,  determines who we are also at work: as employees, managers, or leaders. It’s very hard to change some of our behaviors, especially our emotional reactions. Yet knowledge of the relations between our personality and our present or future leadership effectiveness can be extremely beneficial.

A leader’s personality greatly influences the dynamics and culture of the top-management teams, which in result shapes their characteristics and, ultimately, affects how an entire organization performs.  

Let’s break down this example even further to emphasize a clear correlation between the top-level management’s performance and employee satisfaction. The former has a direct impact on the business outcomes, such as income, sales growth, return on investment (ROI), and return on assets (ROA), while the latter is key for employees to trust their supervisors and therefore feel safe and content at work.

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To summarize:

Our personality impacts the leadership style.

The leadership style impacts employees’ attitudes and a team’s performance.

The team’s performance impacts organizational performance.

A leader’s personality > Leadership style > Employee satisfaction and performance > Organizational Performance

In reality, however, not all managers are a cream of the crop, so what about the incompetent ones unable to deliver value?

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This issue has not been sufficiently analyzed yet, and for sure there’s no universal formula how to manage such a situation. The problem, however, remains highly important.

Many surveys involving international companies analyzed by Dr. Robert Hogan show that nearly 75% of the employees in any given organization report that the worst aspect of their job is their immediate boss. The average managerial incompetence range was noted around 50% (DeVries & Kaiser, 2003).

Historically, managerial incompetence was measured by lack of highly skilled and trained staff. Now, it’s more about a manager having undesirable qualities rather than not having too many desired ones.

Multiple studies, started by Bentz in 1985, followed by the Center of Creative Leadership, as well as others, showed that mediocre managers all share the following characteristics:

  • Poor interpersonal skills (they are arrogant, cold, insensitive, overly ambitious),
  • Unable to get work done (betraying trust, overly ambitious, not following rules),
  • Unable to build a team and unable to make transition after a promotion.

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Dr. Robert Hogan described all the above factors as personality disorders. He also called them the “dark side” of our personality.  

Personality disorders are dysfunctional interpersonal dispositions that coexist with talent, ambition, and good social skills but prevent people from completing the essential leadership task: building and effectively managing a team.

A few key points about our “dark side”:

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  • It’s hard to detect and precisely define because it coexists with well-developed social skills.
  • High “dark side” characteristics level attracts other people as a positive thing in a short-term relation. For example, people who are highly narcissistic, at first seem confident and charismatic. After some time, however, these traits reveal a sense of entitlement and inability to learn from mistakes. If chosen leaders, with time such people might be rejected by the team for being arrogant and high-headed.
  • While high “dark side” characteristics level is bad for a leader, low is just as bad. Here, the whole situation gets more interesting and becomes all about the balance between the two. Low levels suggest problems with accepting authority, low imagination levels, lack of vision, indecisiveness, and so on.

Concluding, as in other life areas, also here: the balance works best.

Anatoli Styf_Balance_Shutterstock

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