What makes a good leader?

February 22, 2010
by Purchasingb2b Staff

As the profile of the procurement profession continues to increase, many practitioners now find themselves in leadership positions.

Many are finding that strong leadership is an art, and a new set of data proves the correlation it has with organizational performance.

Personnel assessment consultancy Psychometrics Canada recently polled 517 human resources professionals from across Canada to gauge the state of leadership in the Canadian workplace.

The study confirms that strong leadership is crucial in order for an organization to function and develop properly. More than 63 percent of respondents see leaders has having significant influence over their organizations’ success, while only 2.5 percent reported that leaders have very little influence.

The most common benefits seen in organizations with strong leadership are increased motivation, improved working relationships, higher team performance and better solutions to problems.

Conversely, where leadership is poor, performance lags. Nearly 92 percent of the HR professionals surveyed said they have seen good employees quit or lose morale as a result of bad bosses. Other common consequences are underutilization of employees’ skills, fueding staff members and failed projects.

“These figures should be a strong alert to organizations that poor leadership could be causing them major problems,” said Shawn Bakker, a psychologist at Psychometrics Canada.

The skills to succeed

What skills do you need to make sure your leadership style is effective? A full 90 percent of respondents said that communication is critically important. Nearly 53 percent said that change management was critical, while managing people, setting goals and solving problems were cited by 48.2, 37.5 and 30.3 percent of respondents, respectively.

That said, developing those skills is not always easy. Respondents listed a number of obstacles that prevent leaders from developing their skills, including failure to recognize a need for improvement, lack of time, lack of support from superiors and inadequate training budget.

Another significant barrier may be a lack of willingness on the part of leaders themselves, according to Mark Fitzsimmons, Psychometrics Canada’s president.

“What surprised me from our research was that, even with the understanding that leadership is key for organizational success, the leaders themselves were not actively pursuing their own development—despite the opportunities available,” he said.

The survey concluded with a set of recommendations for leaders to become more effective. Not surprisingly the most common suggestion was talking less and listening more. Other recommendations on the list include providing clear expectations, initiating more informal interaction with staff and assigning tasks based on skills instead of office politics.