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The myth of becoming a complete leader
David Pendleton DPhil
Saїd Business School and Green-Templeton College, University of Oxford
Edgecumbe Consulting Group, Bristol
Visiting Professor in Leadership,
Walker School of Business and Technology, Webster University, St Louis, USA
Business Fads 1950 – 2000
Business Process Re-engineering
Continuous Improvement/Learning Organization
One Minute ManagingCorporate Culture
Just in Time/KanbanMatrix
Management by Objectives
Theory X and Theory YSatisfiers/Dissatisfiers
1950 1960 1970 1980 1990
Self Managing Teams
Zero Base Budgeting
Strategic Business Units
The shift in ideas about leadership in the 20th century
Early 20 C Middle 20 C Late 20 C
Leading only by consent in the 21st Century?
• On March 24, 2014, Eich was promoted to CEO
of Mozilla Corporation.
• His appointment sparked controversy over a $1,000
political donation Eich had made in 2008 to a
California campaign for heterosexual marriage only
• After his appointment to CEO, the controversy re-
– OKCupid and two gay application developers
called for a boycott of the company.
– A number of Mozilla employees asked him to
step down, while others spoke out on their
blogs in his favour.
• On April 3, 2014, Eich stepped down as CEO and
resigned from working at Mozilla. In his personal
blog, Eich posted that "under the present
circumstances, I cannot be an effective leader."
We need a leadership model and approach that are:
• Evidence based
• Reflective of 21st century society and needs
The argument in a nutshell
The effect of leadership is indirect.
Combining who they are with what they do
Openness to Experience
Leader effectiveness (58%)*
Group performance (31%)*
Follower job satisfaction (56%)*
Satisfaction with leader (92%)*
* Proportion of each measure of leadership effectiveness explained by a
combination of leadership traits and leadership behaviours.
DeRue, Nahrgang, Wellman and Humphrey, (2011) Trait and
Behavioral Theories of Leadership, Personnel Psychology,
Employee satisfaction, employee engagements, and business outcomes
A meta-analysis of 198,514 employees in 7,939
Business Units, found:
– That employee engagement was directly
linked to profitability, customer
satisfaction, loyalty, sales, employee
retention, productivity, and safety.
– That employee satisfaction and
engagement were mainly determined by
satisfaction with immediate supervisor
Hunter, Schmidt and Hayes, Journal of Applied Psychology, 2002
Further evidence of engagement’s impact on the bottom line
Towers-Perrin 2006 studied 50 companies (664,000 employees)
for a year across the globe. They found:
– Operating income.
• Companies with highly engaged employees +19.2%
• Companies with below average engagement -32.7%.
– Net income growth.
• +13.7% compared with -3.8%
– Earnings per share.
• +27.8% compared with -11.2%
Towers Watson Global Workforce study 2012
• N=32,000 full time workers from 29 countries on all
• Key Findings
– Security of employment is key in recruitment and retention
– Stress is rife
– Retention is more to do with the quality of the work experience
overall: relationship with line manager, trust in senior leadership,
ability to manage stress on the job
– Doubts about level of interest and support from above
“Businesses appear to be at a critical tipping point in their ability to
maintain engagement over time”
Sustainable engagement is based on traditional engagement +
enablement + promotion of well-being
The argument in a nutshell moves on… and on
(what we do)
(how it feels) Discretionary
…and we can measure and/or estimate the size of the effects. EG moving from disengagement to strong
engagement decreases the probability of leaving by 87%
Source: Corporate Leadership Council 2004
Conclusions from the evidence…
• Leadership makes a difference to performance
• It makes more of a difference in tougher times when
opportunities are scarce (like now!)
• The effect is indirect and mediated largely through the
effect on people
• The impact is largely to do with the power of engagement
and the effect on discretionary effort
• The effect is a mixture of who we are and what we do. We
will explore both.
A new theory of Leadership
Leadership is creating the conditions for people and organisations to
succeed and achieve significant goals:
Leadership proposition 1: The Primary Colours® of Leadership
…and Coping with Pressure
Ref: Pendleton and Furnham 2012
Think of this as body parts and capabilities
which way to go
So what is LEADING?
Setting Strategic Direction
• The nervous system
Leadership proposition 2: Incomplete individuals, complete teams…
• It’s hard to be world class in all areas.
• There are sound psychological reasons why this may be so and
empirical evidence to support it.
• Rather than trying to be good in all areas, it may be better to
be great in one or two and work with others who are great in
• 800 metres
• 200 metres
• High jump
• Long jump
Summarising data from many years and thousand of leaders…
“While the best leaders are not well-rounded, the best
“Effective leaders surround themselves with the right
people and build on each person’s strengths.”
In praise of the incomplete leaders
“Rarely will a single person be skilled in all …. areas. That's why it's critical that
leaders find others who can offset their limitations and complement their
strengths. Those who don't will not only bear the burden of leadership alone but
will find themselves at the helm of an unbalanced ship.”
Deborah Ancona and colleagues HBR 2007
Don’t try to be a duck
According to an Argentinian saying…
The duck walks, flies and swims
…..but none very well!
Leadership proposition 3: Choose carefully what to develop
Work ONWork WITH