Scratch the surface of any great company and you'll find great leaders. We can all agree on that.
But how can you objectively determine if someone is a great leader? That's harder to agree on.
How can you objectively determine if you are a great leader? Since self-evaluation is the most difficult kind of evaluation -- we're all prone to illusory superiority -- that's even harder to agree on.
But not impossible.
In a 2019 study, University of London researchers identified factors that contribute to leadership performance and employee job satisfaction. (Why job satisfaction? For one thing, job satisfaction is often a reasonable proxy for leadership ability, especially since employees often quit their manager, not their company.)
Ultimately, they came up with seven questions which, slightly modified, you can ask yourself to evaluate how good a leader you are:
- Do you provide useful feedback on every employee's work?
- Do you respect each employee as a person?
- Do you praise and recognize each employee when they do a good job?
- Do you help each employee get the job done?
- Do you encourage and support each employee's development?
- Are you successful in getting people to work together?
- Do you help and support every employee?
Similar to the questions Google uses to identify its best team managers, those questions largely focus on soft skills. Coaching. Teamwork. Feedback. Recognition.
Naturally, the worst leaders tended to score poorly in those areas.
Poor leaders actually tended to score relatively high on respect and recognition; where they fell short was on questions four and five: getting the job done, and developing employees.
According to the researchers:
The key problem of bad bosses may not be that they are unpleasantly disrespectful of others ... but rather that they may lack the sheer technical competence to get the job done.
In short, soft skills are great. Confidence, extroversion, the ability to motivate and inspire: Research shows great bosses tend to score highly on those traits. But without a foundation of hard skills -- without the ability to do your job, and the ability to help the people you lead not just do their jobs but steadily improve their capabilities -- your soft skills might be largely wasted.
As the same researchers write, "If your boss could do your job, you're more likely to be happy at work."
Because technical skills matter. Because results matter.
Not just your ability to deliver business results, but to help each employee develop and grow their own skills.
I'll respect you for helping your business grow. I'll respect you even more for helping me grow.
Because great bosses don't just make their organizations better. They make the people around them better too.