Science & Leadership Potential

This is the first blog in our quick five min reads series, in which we summarise articles we found interesting/useful.  Our thinking is to provide you the main points that will either satisfy you or lead you to your own further reading.

First up is Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “What science tells us about leadership potential”.

Apply what we know, ignore what we think we know

Thomas urges us to recognise that the scientific study of leadership is well established despite there being a huge gap between what is known and what is practiced. Sadly much of commercial leadership practice is not based on rigorous scientific understanding.  This results in enormous losses in dollars, trust, and resignations.

Common belief challenged

Many people believe that leadership is situational and anyone can lead.  The reality is that some people are more likely to become leaders.  We have the means to test for this with good psychological tools.  The personality characteristics that increase the likelihood of a person becoming a leader include; being well adjusted, sociable and curious.  IQ also plays a part – albeit a smaller one.  Although emergence does not automatically equate to effectiveness: we do know effective leaders are high in integrity and emotional intelligence.

Different styles

This doesn’t mean that there is only one type of effective leader or one type of personality that can lead.  Different personality types can result in different styles for example transactional, transformational, or entrepreneurial.

Leaders – born or made?

The answer is some of both.  Although heritable traits feature extensively (30-60% in fact), and are evident from a young age, it is possible to boost key leadership competencies up to 30% with coaching.

Does gender matter?

No – differences are “virtually non-existent”.

What makes leaders go bad?

Many of the useful leadership traits can be present in the same leader as destructive traits.  Coaching can (sometimes) help leaders to recognise and control their toxic traits.

Relevance today?

The foundations of leadership have evolved since the beginning of time and are not likely to change – even in todays high-tech fast-paced society.

Bottom line: it is high time we spent our time & money applying what we know and stopped wasting our valuable resources on what we know for sure – that just ain’t so (so said Mark Twain and he was on the money).

Links, References etc

Art by Rosie (12)

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