Leaders: the Best and the Rest!

Scott Keller

Scott Keller : McKinsey Senior Partner and Rock Star

Best leaders

What separates the best leaders from the rest? Leadership involves the ability to influence and motivate others towards a common goal or vision. We all know the best leadership traits  can vary depending on the context, the organization, and the goals being pursued . That’s why we really appreciated the article from McKinsey as Scott Keller, one of the authors and a serious rock star clearly demonstrates none of us are one dimensional.  We are sure you have met really good leaders who have alter egos outside of their leadership roles and it is refreshing to see experts with the same split roles.

What distinguishes the best leaders from the rest?

We’ve no doubt that you will have read many leadership books. In many cases was this to help identify what makes the best leader? In the corporate world McKinsey published a definitive book just over two years ago.  McKinsey senior partners Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vikram Malhotra launched CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest in 2022 and to celebrate the two year anniversary they have an online interview at https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/mckinsey-on-books/the-ceos-secret-to-successful-leadership-ceo-excellence-revisited 

We thought it was really interesting to hear in the interview that the authors recognized that many of the attributes for the best CEO can be applied to other businesses.  They do acknowledge that generational family firms and founder led businesses may have nuanced differences. With that said the six elements of the best CEO are well worth checking against the leadership in your business or organisation.

The six elements that seperates the best leaders from the rest

To find the definitive answer, you will have to read the book to get the full value of these elements.  From the interview we captured six elements :

  • Set direction
  • Align to the direction
  • Mobilise your leaders to mobilise in that direction
  • Work with your board
  • Connect with a group of stakeholders
  • Manage your personal effectiveness

The video interview offers a great summary of the elements and how the best CEOs compare to the rest.  The three authors obviously have a huge understanding of the topic , it is well worth a watch.

Applying the best mindsets of the CEOs to your leadership

Applying our experience with business leaders to the interview we offer some key take aways for the leaders we work with:

Set direction

Setting your direction is vital, the best are BOLD, fortune favors the bold – consistently looking for the next step change in performance. the rest stick with discretion as the better form of valor here. Or do no harm and be relatively conservative.  By doing this, they keep the status quo and remain one of the rest..

Align to the direction

The best are prepared to put rigor and discipline into the ‘soft’ stuff with the same mindset as you have to all our financial reporting. The soft stiff is no longer ‘squishy’. Those that stick to measuring what can be measured will maintain the status quo at best and will remain one of the rest.

Mobilise your leaders to mobilise in that direction

The best have a Dynamics Mindset not a Mechanics Mindset .  If you put rigor into the psychology of people. Delivering we NOT me. Your team will deliver the best.  Brilliantly, the interview compares the difference in these mindsets as turning up as a thermostat or a thermometer (one is more dynamic than the other!).

If you remain process led. Carrying the ‘what do we meet about, with who and when’ mindset then you maintain the status quo (keeping the ‘this is the way we always do things’ attitude).

Work with your board

If you do have a board then to be the best you must help them to help the business! Tap into the Board’s capability and what is needed on the Board to help the business! The Board is the Chief Consultants.  Or stick with what the rest do and just help them do their fiduciary duties and wonder why they don’t apply their talents to your business.

Connect with a group of stakeholders

Connect with a group of your stakeholders.  Today it’s about the motivations of stakeholders. Start with their WHY, what are their motivators and lean into them to get your message cut through.  Move beyond the rest, who remain reactive to the actions of stakeholders, always answering the ‘who, what, when, where’ questions about stakeholders.  To be the best you need to start working with stakeholders ‘whys’ and moving your whole Eco structure forward.

Manage your personal effectiveness

Manage and take responsibility for your personal effectiveness.  To be the best, you need to recognise that you are not accountable for everything.  That you need to do what ONLY you can do as the leader of the business and with the capabilities you have! Become focused and narrow on where you can add value too and go deeper there! We all know it is easy to have the mindset ‘I need to do everything that needs done round here!’ And we also know if we do this ,then we end up spread too thin across multiple things and consequently add very little value!

What do think?

Watch the interview and please let us know what you think would apply to  founder led firms or family firms . Send your thoughts to hello@thomasjardineandco.co.uk

Video: The CEO’s secret to successful leadership: CEO Excellence revisited | McKinsey

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