“Sam is a great leader.” “Why do you say that?” “Well, because…” What follows is usually a rather subjective description of certain characteristics that generally follow a pattern of traits we’ve found common to good leaders. As many times as I’ve done the good boss/bad boss exercise with leadership students I’m usually not surprised by the items that fall onto the two lists. Research consistently reveals that things like vision, team builder, personable/approachable, leads by example, passion and drive, good listener, empowering, integrity and positive attitude are traits that we correlate to good leaders. We tend to know good leadership when we see it. But if you had to objectively measure effective leadership, what would you measure? When comparing leaders in your organization, what can you look for to distinguish the high performers from the average ones? Here are some metrics I’ve come up with that might help.
Consistently achieves results. Let’s start with the obvious. Effective leaders accomplish the mission. They lead people to accomplish the goals of their organization and are accountable for the success or failure in meeting those goals. Effective leaders get the job done, ineffective leaders don’t. Simple right? Not so fast. In many organizations this is the only metric used to evaluate leaders. Doing so is a myopic approach and often leads to unintended consequences such as a micro-managing dictatorial “results at any cost” manager that is terrible to work for. To determine if a leader is getting results the “right” way we need to look to other metrics to see if the leader is truly effective.
Builds bench strength. Are the leader’s team members developing? If they are, this is an indicator of a leader who places emphasis on coaching and growing his or her people. Improving oneself or achieving mastery in a task is an almost universal motivator. Leaders who recognize and conscientiously seek out ways to develop their people’s bench strength benefit the organization as a whole.
Retains quality people. “People don’t leave jobs, they leave bad bosses” may be cliché, but is often true. Are team members quitting or asking to move to another team at a higher rate than other leaders in the organization? If so, this is strong indicator of a leader who is less than effective. Replacing talent is a costly expense often resulting from ineffective leadership. On the other hand, effective leaders build a following of people who want to work for them and be on their team.
Promotes company values. Is the culture within the team a reflection of the organization’s desired values? This is an indicator of an effective leader who is building a positive work environment. Or are there more HR complaints or ethical issues coming from this team? Remember that a unit will tend to take on characteristics of its leadership. Ethical issues within a team often stem from either an ethically challenged leader or one who refuses to confront bad behavior.
Plays well in the sandbox. Effective leaders are team players that embrace the vision and goals of the larger organization. Are a leader’s team members notoriously known in other departments for being hard to work with? If so this could be an indicator of a leader who embraces a bunker or silo mentality. An us-versus-them attitude is far different from healthy team pride and hurts an organization in the long run.
These are five indicators that I’ve come up with to help objectively measure leader effectiveness. How do you measure up? Can you think of other indicators? If so, please share in comments.