Waw. The holy leadership grail found by McKinsey.

A recent McKinsey global survey of executives shows that leaders who have mastered even one of these skills are twice as likely as those who have mastered none to feel that they can lead through change; masters of all five are more than four times as likely”. https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Organization/Talent/The_value_of_centered_leadership_McKinsey_Global_Survey_results_2679

McKinsey developed it’s own leadership model, based on “interviews with more than 140 leaders; analysis of a wide range of academic research in fields as diverse as organizational development, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, positive psychology, and leadership; workshops with hundreds of clients to test our ideas; and global surveys”. They define 5 dimensions: meaning, managing energy, engaging, connecting and positive framing. This cocktail of competencies and capabilities should lead to impact, defined as resilience, belonging and presence. An explicite asterix to their model are the preconditions: intelligence, tolerance for change, desire to lead and communication skills.

I find the model rich and complete. It pays fully attention to the power of nature and context. Not all persons are blessed with the right stuff to gain impact on their environment. And not all environments are suited for all leadership aspects. The model also integrates dimensions that go further than the traditional ‘instrumental’ competencies. ‘Meaning’, ‘Energy’ go further and deeper than e.g. ‘vision’, ’empowerment’ and ‘strategic thinking’. And ‘presence’ and ‘belonging’ as outcomes are different stuff than bottom line results.  We can speak of a breakthrough when leading business consultants start integrating more holistic notions in their thinking. So far so good.

But holistic models are apparently difficult to sell. So they quantify the advantages through surveys. And as the quote above illustrates: the survey results confirm the model. The quote is difficult to understand and leads easily to misinterpretations as e.g. ‘Uit een recente McKinsey Global Survey onder executives blijkt dat een leidinggevende die over minstens een van deze competenties beschikt, tweemaal zo goed in staat is als anderen om effectief leiding te geven tijdens een verandering.” (http://www.consultancy.nl/nieuws/mckinsey-centered-leadership-maakt-leiders-effectiever.)

But that’s not what bothers me most. I’m more confused by the way the highly mature model needs to be validated by a self rating survey. So they asked more than 2000 representative executives questions like “I actively build communities of people who give and get support from each other.” And they found that the executives found the 5 dimensions important. Right. And they also found that executives who self score high on the leadership dimensions, feel more able, are more satisfied. “twice, five, 20 times more…” Double right.

Somewhere down the line from the wise, holistic model, to using simple self rating results as proof, I got lost.

Koen Marichal, 17th January 2011


About Koen Marichal

Director Future Leadership Initiative at Antwerp Management School
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