Alongside the now discredited belief that leaders are born not made is the equally erroneous view that bad leaders can’t shift their behaviors and become much better. This belief tends to be especially widespread about more seasoned and senior executives.
In their Harvard Business Review blog “Bad Leaders Can Change their Spots” Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman refute this common belief with research data from a large bank, large high-tech communications company, and an Ivy League University. Through 360 assessments the study identified 96 executives who were rated worse than 90% of their peers in leadership effectiveness. Through subsequent feedback and coaching 71 (about 75%) of those leaders showed significant improvement in a follow up assessment 18 – 24 months later.
And this large group of “older dogs learning new tricks” weren’t just making minor changes. They actually moved up 33 percentile points from the bottom to above average!
The study showed that the biggest flaws of these bad bosses were interpersonal skills such as developing others, collaboration and teamwork, inspiring and motivating others, and building relationships as well as practicing self-development. These executives tended to be much stronger in leading change initiatives, driving for results, or honesty and integrity. Those strengths likely explain why these managers were originally promoted up the organization. But their lack of interpersonal skills and personal development (emotional intelligence) eventually stuck out so far people around them could not see past these flaws becoming fatal to their careers.
The authors conclude; “the exceptionally good news, our data show, is that far more often than not, those who take these issues seriously can succeed in shedding bad habits to become markedly better leaders. New spots, anyone?”
On March 27 at 1:00 EDT Joe Folkman is reviewing these findings in a complimentary (no charge) webinar. He’ll cover:
• Data on the 71 leaders who were able to elevate their leadership effectiveness from the 23rd percentile to the 56th percentile.
• The nine common leadership skills they used to change and develop.
• Fresh techniques for overcoming fatal flaws.
Click on “GOOD NEWS! Poor Leaders Can Change Their Spots” to register.