Is Benevolent Leadership the Key to Success?

This research is interesting.

There are many paths to the top in a career. Yet there is one thing common to nearly every person who has achieved extraordinary success, a pattern of behavior shared by 95 percent of the executives we studied over three years. That is a single-minded focus on making those around you successful. Those able to achieve extraordinary success do not claw their way to the top. More often, others in whom they place their trust carry them there.

To the average career professional within our results-obsessed organizations, nothing could be more counterintuitive. Fifteen years of globalization, hyper-competition, re-engineering and layoff after painful layoff have produced a work force left to believe only in survival of the fittest. The most pervasive misconception is that climbing the career ladder requires competing against, rather than supporting, colleagues. It's a belief that spawns behavior inconsistent with the core values of ethics and integrity.

In 1999, we and our research team began a quest to answer a simple question: What factors separate those individuals achieving extraordinary career success from others, equally talented, who never quite reach their aspirations? We embarked on a massive, three-year study, analyzing more than 1 million professionals, surveying 8,000, and conducting in-person interviews with more than 300.

Benevolent leadership emerged as perhaps the most important, and one of the most captivating, behavior patterns accounting for career success.

Counterintuitive? Yep. But on closer inspection it does make sense. What companies should learn from this is to look for benevolent leaders to promote, not go-getter superstars who crush everyone around them. Despite the awe we here in the U.S have for the CEO position, business success still requires a team. A good coach helps, but he can't do it alone. Hire a coach who thinks he can, and you get Enrons and Tycos.

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I think many times the aggressive go-getters who have to win at any cost lack confidence, and thus have a continual need to crush the people around them to boost their own egos. Real leaders, confident leaders, aren't threatened by the success of others. They realize that benevolence, far from being anti-capitalist mumbo jumbo, can actually be in their long-term self-interest.