McKinsey: Four kinds of behavior account for 89 percent of leadership effectiveness


I thought this was interesting: according this McKinsey analysis, 89% of leadership effectiveness rests ultimately on four kinds of behaviour:

1) Effective problem solving.

This is about decision making – but about being able to effectively gather, analyze and consider information before making that decision. According to the study authors, “This is deceptively difficult to get right, yet it is a key input into decision making for major issues (such as M&A) as well as daily ones (such as how to handle a team dispute).”

2) Operating with a strong results orientation.

Execution is as important as strategy! As the study authors say, “Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives but also following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.”

3) Seeking different perspectives.

I like how the Netflix culture memo spells this out as “farming for dissent.” According to McKinsey, “This trait is conspicuous in managers who monitor trends affecting organizations, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues, and give the appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Leaders who do well on this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.”

4) Supporting others.

This is something I truly feel strongly about and feel blessed to have had great leaders who supported me. I find this especially necessary in creating what Simon Sinek calls “the circle of safety.” As the McKinsey study shows: “Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency, allaying unwarranted fears about external threats and preventing the energy of employees from dissipating into internal conflict.”

Jack Welch On The Role Of Leaders

Jack Welch, in this short video from 2015, expounds on what is the role of a leader.

This was the advice given by the legendary Jack Welch to 4,300 aspiring startup founders and CEO’s last week at TiECON, the largest entrepreneurship conference in Silicon Valley. Welch was speaking with his co-author and wife, Suzy Welch, to promote their new book, “The Real Life MBA,” the proceeds of which will go towards inner city scholarships.

While Welch is best known as former CEO of General Electric GE -0.99%, one of the largest and most innovative companies in the world, his advice about leadership resonated with the startup crowd. Welch himself never went down the startup path, but he was a great intrapreneur, having built GE’s Plastics and Chemical Divisions into $1 billion units. He is a cultivator of talent like no other in American history. According to Vivek Paul, a former CEO of Wipro and protégé of Welch, there are 50 CEO’s of large American companies who worked directly for Jack Welch at some point.

  • Chief Meaning Officer – “To let everyone in the place know: where you are going, why you are going there, and – most importantly – what’s in it for them to get there with you?”
  • Chief Declutterer – Get rid of the hurdles or bottlenecks so that your people can act and get what needs to be done, done.
  • Chief Celebrator Of Others – “You’ve got to have a generosity gene. It’s got to be in your body… You’ve got to enjoy people’s success.  You got to love people’s success. You’ve got to get in their skin and really be excited as hell for them! You’ve got a love to give raises, you’ve got to be turned on giving bonuses… it’s got to make you feel great!”
  • Chief Fun Officer – “Find all kinds of ways to win. There are small victories all the time and celebrate every one of them… find a way to make little victories big
    victories. And if you get a lot of little victories, you’ll get a big victory when you add them all together. But think of the job that way: work is fun, and your job is to make it fun, if you’re a leader. Don’t be some grinding horse’s ass!”

I especially like what he said at the end of the video – which, to me, sums up the privilege, honour and responsibility of what it means to be a leader:

So, in my view you’ve got a huge responsibility. Most of you – God gave you a job where you are responsible for people’s lives. It’s a big deal! You got families you’re responsible for. Make it a big success for them! You’ve got one of the luxuries of life: to impact people’s lives. Grab it, squeeze it, and take advantage of it.




You’re A Bad Leader If People Can’t Follow You


Sometimes, when I’m driving in the lead of a convoy, I get chided for being a bad leader.

It’s neither because I don’t know the route nor that I’m driving I’m driving dangerously.

it’s because I am not mindful about the people following behind me.

Sometimes, I cross traffic lights right on amber; leaving everybody else stuck at the red light behind me. Other times, I drive a little too fast that the last few cars struggle to keep up.

You get the picture.

It’s the same with leadership.

We’re bad leaders when we are not mindful of the people following us; when we don’t bring them along.

It’s not that we lack the vision (we know where we’re going).

It’s not that we lack the skill (we can drive ahead and possess the right experience to navigate the journey ahead).

It’s not even because people don’t want to follow us (after all, people have allowed us to be “in the front” and are willingly lined up to follow).

We are bad leaders when we go ahead without ensuring that people are able to follow us.

We leave them confused, lost, and frustrated.

Good leaders help ensure that people can follow where they are leading.

My Welcome Aboard Note

At the end of my first day at Microsoft, I received a wonderful “Welcome aboard” note from my manager Danny Ong (whom I am now privileged to call a friend, and whose influence in my life continues far beyond the time we spent working together). I’ve since adapted it for my own use. I hope it encourages my own new team members in the same way I was encouraged when I first started working with Danny.

Dear [name],

Welcome aboard and thank you for saying yes to this adventure!

As you are new to [company] and this team, plus you and I are working closely together in this context for the first time, I’d like to share some principles I will try to live by to support you, and set you up for success with the team:

  1. My #1 priority is your happiness and productivity at work. If there’s anything I can do to make you happier and more efficient – tell me right away. This isn’t mere idealism – it’s also good business, since happy people are more productive.
  2. I will not burden you with unnecessary rules and regulations. You’re are an adult – I trust you to use your best judgment at all times.
  3. You have my full permission to screw up, as long as you own up to it, apologize to those affected and learn from it.
  4. Please tell me immediately when I screw up, so I can own up to it, apologize and learn from it.
  5. If I get it right occasionally, I’d love to hear about it from you, too J
  6. Please make sure you proactively identify people who are doing great work and praise them to the heavens. I will do this as much as humanly possible, but I can’t do it alone.
  7. I will always have time for you. My calendar is open to you and you will see that it is often completely full. However, if you need to speak to me I will re-arrange it to accommodate you.
  8. I am interested in you as an employee AND as a human being. I care about your private life and about your – and your family’s – health and well-being.
  9. I expect you to take responsibility for your personal and professional development. I will support you fully with helping you to achieve your goals, but the commitment must come from you.
  10. Finally, I expect you to take responsibility for your own well-being at work. If you can do something today to make yourself, a co-worker or me a little happier at work – do it !

I’m looking forward to your success!



The first word in Merger is “ME”

I’ve had the privilege of having a front row seat in one of the most long drawn, contentiously fought mergers in Corporate Malaysia to date – the merger-acquisition of EON Capital by Hong Leong Bank.

During this time, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is:

The first word in “Merger” is “Me”. 

If you’re leading change management and internal communications like I was (I led the branding and communications function for the integration process), you’ll be best served by building your strategy around answering these two questions:

  1. What will happen to me?
  2. What’s in it for me?

Unless you address these two questions, you won’t get anywhere with your audiences.