Meta-analysis evidence: Behavior is best predictor of Leadership Effectiveness
I want to thank Rich Grenhart who sent me an interesting article by Dr. Brett L. Simmons called, “Leadership Traits and Behaviors: Four Evidence Based Suggestions.” It summarizes a meta-analysis of 79 previously published studies all aimed at trying to answer the question of whether leader traits or leader behaviors are the best predictors of leadership effectiveness. The original study is over 40 pages long [1. Derue, D.S. et al. (2011). Trait and behavioral theories of leadership: An integration and meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Personnel Psychology, 64: 7-52.], but Simmons offers four suggestions based on the study’s conclusions and discusses their significance. The bottom line is that evidence points to behavior being the more important predictor of leadership effectiveness, though the traits of conscientiousness and agreeableness often improve performance of groups being led. Transformational leadership is consistently predictive of effectiveness, and “Effective leaders must plan and schedule work, support and help their followers, and encourage and facilitate change (p. 41).”
As one commenter to the article suggested, the conclusions boil down to two things our grandparents taught us:
- Lead by example
- Don’t tell me, show me
Besides confirming these common sense conclusions, Dr. Simmons feels that the analysis offers this take-away: “Because the evidence shows that behaviors are the strongest predictors of leader effectiveness, we can and should train folks to be more effective leaders. Hire the most conscientious people you can find, but when you get ready to promote people into positions of leadership, make sure they have a proven record of mastering tasks, relating well with others, and responding to mandates for change.”
Do you find this holds true in your organization? We’d love to hear your thoughts.