Recently a client mused, “Is it possible to be a high-standards, results driven leader; while at the same time building an engaged, fun-to-work with team?” Many people would contend that doing either of these things well makes it almost impossible to succeed at the other.
To explore this question further, my colleague Jack Zenger and I examined 360 assessments from more than 60,000 leaders. The assessment measured both a leader’s ability to drive hard for results and his or her people skills. We isolated leaders who were in the top quartile on both obtaining results and people skills.
The verdict: We found only 13% of leaders in the overall dataset were in the top quartile on both. We were fascinated to see what insights we would gain from understanding what this group of 7,800 leaders did differently than the other 87%.
Characteristics Of The Rare Group Who Does Both
In a recent Harvard Business Review article we shared that leaders who are under 30 years of age are 2-3 times more likely to be effective at both results and engagement than their older compatriots. Nearly one-third of the group under 30 years achieved both priorities well. At around age 40, it seems, leaders appear to have made their choice between being results driven or interpersonally strong. From there forward, only 10% of leaders in any age group would do both things well.
This prompts some questions. If someone early in their career is able to do both things, could they recapture that ability? Could we preserve that flexibility of being both results oriented and engaged if we began at an earlier age to offer appropriate development?