Study 'Zones' In on Leadership Development

September 15, 2010

A strategic bottom-line focus remains a critical leadership trait, but it alone won’t be sufficient in the evolving global economy. In its report “Developing the 21st Century Leader,” AchieveGlobal, a Tampa, Florida, consulting firm, identifies 42 core practices—some behavioral, some cognitive—distilled into six categories, or “leadership zones.” The six categories are defined as: business, diversity, ingenuity, people, reflection and society.

The findings are based largely on a global survey involving nearly 1,000 organizations in the U.S., Mexico, India, China, Singapore, Germany and the United Kingdom. The survey results were used to develop the “leadership zone” model, which is intended to help companies identify potential leaders and shore up the skills of existing leaders, says Craig Perrin, director of solution development with AchieveGlobal.

“The important thing isn’t to master every leadership behavior, but rather learn to be nimble and adaptable as business conditions dictate,” Perrin says.

For example, leaders strong in the “reflection” zone are better suited to acquire the complementary skills represented by the other zones. By building trust, for example, they are better able to solicit feedback from workers and bolster their feeling of engagement. Likewise, they are better able to read people’s emotions and adapt their leadership styles to the needs of different groups.

Reflection also helps leaders appreciate the value of workforce diversity and do a better job of balancing economic, environmental and ethical matters that could affect the larger society, Perrin says.

“Obviously leaders need to be decisive and able to map out a course of action. But if too many leaders become unwilling to ask questions about [the consequences of] those decisions and actions, then people can begin to lose trust in business,” Perrin says.

The AchieveGlobal report shows leaders’ priorities in this still wobbly economy. For example, executives worldwide rank diversity lowest in importance among all the leadership zones. Organizations with a greater geographic scope, number of employees and worldwide revenue tend to value diversity more highly than their smaller counterparts, according to the report.

“As a result, larger organizations bump up against diversity issues more often,” says Richard Hadden, a workplace consultant with Contented Cow Partners in Jacksonville, Florida.

Instead, amid mounting pressure to control costs, AchieveGlobal says companies rank practical business skills first on the list.

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