4 Key Leadership Traits for Today’s Agile World

According to a McKinsey study of 81 diverse companies around the world, over 90 percent of CEOs believe developing effective leaders is the most important challenge they face. Further, the study highlights four behaviors that account for 89 percent of leadership effectiveness. According to the study, strong leaders should:

  • Seek different perspectives.
  • Be supportive.
  • Operate with a strong results orientation.
  • Solve problems effectively.

These behaviors directly relate to crucial traits that have proven effective for leaders during turbulent times. When forming your leadership strategy, consider these four key characteristics.

1. Vision

A leader needs to understand market trends, technology trends and customer needs. An effective leader finds balance between these market forces to enhance the skills of their organization. Vision provides leaders with the focus they need to produce products and solutions that serve the market they’re in; vision mobilizes their direction and action.

IBM Design Thinking provides a powerful tool to help leaders seek out different perspectives, expose new opportunities for their team and create a clear vision.

2. Empathy

Empathy is the soul of any great leadership style. Empathy is what allows leaders to be supportive. People are the cornerstone of any business. Because they are responsible for the results, they should be treated as the most valuable asset of the business. When issues arise, it’s important to manage them through the lens of human feelings.

3. Action

We’re in business to produce profit on good products and services. Without the ability to convert strategy into action, you cannot be an effective leader. Discussing ideas is an important part of developing the right vision. Therefore, it’s important to act in measurable ways to monitor our progress.

In the Harvard Business Review, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton warn leaders not to get lost in the “smart-talk trap.” Sutton notes that too often leaders say smart things instead of doing smart things. Then, after they have said all the right things, they feel so much better that they believe no other action is necessary. They may even feel that somehow their words will simply turn into action without having to do anything else.

This mistake can cause leaders to lose sight of what they need to do to succeed. A leader can be a catalyst for effective action by setting a strong results-oriented culture. To do this, they should focus the company’s vision on tangible achievements. By using successes to encourage your team, you can raise up their wins to the rest of your organization.

4. Passion

Passion fuels each of these key characteristics. The passion to lead with empathy will create tremendous energy that radiates throughout the organization. Awareness, creativity and dedication can inspire teams to reach new levels of performance to get the job done.

At IBM, our leaders have led their organizations through a number of transformations. During IBM’s history, the company has moved into electronic tabulating, introduced enterprise computing with System/360, evolved into a software and services business and moved into the cognitive era. The leaders who helped to guide each of these transformations held these four characteristics.

Leadership is earned and not granted. We know from experience that doing the right thing for the business may not always be popular, but even unpopular actions can be performed fairly and honestly. As effective leaders, we must be true to our business requirements while acting with integrity.

We’ve embraced this leadership style in IBM Systems Lab Services. We collaborate with IBM and its ecosystem to design, build and deliver solutions to clients to help them convert their business challenges to new revenue-generating opportunities. Contact Lab Services to learn more.

About The Co-author

Roger Bales

Topics: Agility, CIO, Digital Transformation


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