Five dimensions of leadership

Here’s a good framework for a quick check of how you’re doing as a leader. Do you need some fine tuning in any of these five areas? Do you need a major boost?

You can also read the full article by Barsh, Cranston and Craske, “Centered leadership: How talented women thrive”, at McKinseyQuarterly.com (free registration required). Like all good leadership literature, it is quite relevant for both women and men. Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “Five dimensions of leadership

  1. This is smashing. I’ve got a new boss since July and I am randomly taking notes about his (tons of) lowlights. I am designing my personal “must-have manager’s qualities” list as well. That said I definitely see all my thoughts in the framework you linked. I am still wondering: can you (direct report) help your boss to boost one of this areas? can it work without preconditions? help appreciated.

  2. A thing I like about this framework: the idea of “preconditions” to leadership. It confirms that leadership cannot be taught: you either have it or you don’t – no matter how many entrepreneurship classes you take at business school or how many self help books you end up reading.

    A thing I think this framework misses: the single, most important attribute turning any person with sufficient drive for leading into an actually decent leader: judgment.

  3. Ed: I believe “preconditions” are just that – necessary, but not sufficient, requirements in order to be a leader. (Judgment, you are right, may be a fifth). Yet many people for whom preconditions are true never become effective leaders – because they lack a moral compass, propagate negative energy, fail at reciprocity or inclusiveness, or are not held sufficently accountable. We’ve all seen people like that.
    If the preconditions are met, though, I would argue that one’s intrinsic leadership potential can be turned into real leadership, and that one can learn helpful things to make that happen. I don’t want to get into a debate on nature vs. nurture, with no clear answers as so often happens in many domains. I can just tell you that, for me, a major shift in my effectiveness as a leader occurred when I realized that I could think of leadership as a set of behaviors, which I could more systematically adopt, and not necessarily just as a set of intrinsics. (Followers see and react to your behaviors, not to what’s inside your head).
    So, in a sense, I believe that leadership can be taught, if the preconditions are there. It probably cannot be taught if the necessary intelligence, judgment and of course desire to lead are not there.

  4. Fede: No, I don’t think it can work without preconditions – i.e. if the person is stupid or lazy, etc. The most you can do in that situation is to work on your interactions with your manager, and then “be the change you want to be”.
    To work on those interactions, if the person is at least open to dialogue, try the following line of inquiry (credits: Bradford & Cohen, “Power Up: Transforming Organizations through Shared Leadership”, Appendix A – “Power Talk: A Hands-ON Guide to Supportive Confrontation”).
    1. “This is how your behavior is affecting me”
    2. “Your behavior is not meeting your goals, and here’s how”
    3. “Your behavior is costly to you, and here’s how”
    4. “In what ways am I part of the problem?”

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