Four Traits that Correlate With Leadership Success

A range of traits make up leadership ability, and companies that invest in developing leaders likely want to prioritize among the possibilities.

To do this, it is helpful to look at leadership research, such as that of global management consulting firm McKinsey&Company, which has taken on the task of investigating which leadership traits most closely correlate with leadership success.

Their research found four traits in particular that “closely correlate[s] with leadership success, particularly among frontline leaders.”

These four behaviors were prevalent in strong organizations with effective leaders, as reported in the article in McKinsey quarterly, Decoding Leadership: What Really Matters:

  1. Solving problems effectively: “The process that precedes decision making is problem solving, when information is gathered, analyzed, and considered,” the authors write. This trait is what helps leaders effectively tackle both daily decision-making and long-term strategizing.
  2. Operating with a strong results orientation: “Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.” Follow-through is important, even for the most visionary leaders.
  3. Seeking different perspectives: Managers with this trait seek out information from a range of sources, and process it well. Perspectives cited in the article include trends affecting organizations, changes in the environment, ideas from employees that could improve performance, and stakeholder concerns. The strongest leaders were able to take in these perspectives and, write the authors, “accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues.”
  4. Supporting others: This top leadership trait highlights the importance of emotional intelligence. “Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges,” write the authors.

If you’re investing in leadership development, it’s worthwhile to keep these four traits in mind. To read a list of the top twenty kinds of leadership behavior, see the article.

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