I recently read an HBR blog by Sunnie Giles that reported the results of a study of 195 leaders representing 30 global organizations.The leaders were asked to identify the most important competencies for leadership. The study reminded me of a complementary article in Forbes by Glenn Llopsis, about the competencies employees expect in their leadership. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two studies and also look at the overlap with the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence requirements related to leadership.
The top seven leadership competencies in the eyes of leaders (per Giles) are:
- High ethical and moral standards
- Setting goals and objectives and then empowering employees to achieve
- Clearly communicating expectations
- Flexibility to change opinions and admit mistakes
- Committing to ongoing employee training
- Communicating often and openly
- Being open to new ideas
The top seven expectations of leadership as expressed by employees (per Llopsis) are:
- Specificity in expectations
- Empowering employees to achieve
- Sharing her/his vulnerabilities
- Demonstrating personal accountability
- Showing respect for employees
While the language is somewhat different in the two presentations, there is a lot of overlap. I must admit, I have always believed, as the leaders do in the HBR study that a key expectation of leadership is open, frequent, and two-way communication. While some of the employees' expectations in the Forbes article require communication, it is not specifically called out as a top employee expectation. Yet when we visit organizations on Baldrige site visits, no matter how effective communication is, we usually hear an employee desire for more communication.Furthermore, Baldrige Award recipients are generally role models for effective two-way communication.
Baldrige role models also demonstrate their commitment to learning as an organization and to personal learning and development of employees. While empowerment (identified in both studies) requires knowledge, the employees did not specifically call out the need for leadership commitment to employee development.
Looking at the employees' expectations of leaders, they identified both respect and authenticity, which were absent in the leaders' set of top competencies. Many of the competencies the leaders chose imply a respect for employees, such as empowering them, openness to their ideas, and willingness to admit mistakes to them, but respect is not specifically mentioned.
The one term that appears to me to be truly unique to the Forbes study is authenticity. Authenticity requires a level of empathy and personal sharing that was not included in the leaders' description of needed competencies.
Taking a step back and looking at the Baldrige criteria, there are two of the characteristics that are not specifically identified in criteria questions. Those characteristics are sharing vulnerabilities and authenticity, both in the employees' expectations of leaders. Indeed authenticity would require a degree of admitting to vulnerabilities. Many of the Baldrige questions when taken in aggregate would lead to leaders sharing their vulnerabilities and to their being authentic, but we do not specifically ask how they demonstrate these competencies.
As we approach the next criteria revision cycle, I am interested in how people feel about adding specific references to vulnerability and authenticity to the criteria requirements for senior leadership (item 1.1) or to the visionary leadership core value. I welcome your thoughts!
And while you ponder that question, I ask leaders and employees to think about both lists of competencies and see how your organization performs.