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Not every person is fortunate enough to have ever worked closely with and learned from a truly exceptional leader. And when Gallup reports that just 10% of people even have the talent necessary to be a good leader and that organizations select the wrong candidate for leadership 82% of the time — in fact, it’s far more likely that we labor under ‘good’, ‘fair’ and downright terrible ones.

So what if you you’re one working for the one of the 90% and you don’t happen to have an exceptional leader to learn from? What can a promising leader-to-be do?

To the rescue: Rising to Power by Ron Carucci and Eric Hansen. Carucci and Hansen completed a 10 year longitudinal study of exceptional leaders and through rigorous statistical analysis can confidently point to these four things:

1. Leaders value all different functions and actively help them to work better together

Great leaders understand and value all the different parts and functions of the business. Because people tend to rise up within one discipline or another, when they are awarded an executive position, their cognitive biases can to cloud their decision making. Exceptional leaders see the value of each function to the whole of the business and they actively work on cultivating the needed cross-functional working relationships to minimize fragmentation and poor coordination.

2. Leaders balance instinct and analysis when making decisions

Decision making is a key to all leadership roles. Leaders spend their days either gathering/synthesizing information in order to make decisions and or communicating/reinforcing those decisions that were made.

Many of us have worked for leaders who “waffle” on decisions or are overly influenced by the last person they spoke with. Or the executive who makes knee-jerk changes to strategy under the guise of “being agile”. This lack of consistency makes for an untenable working environment for the team because there is no trust.

The research shows that the great leaders effectively balance instinct with analysis when making decisions. They don’t delay making decisions because of analysis paralysis nor do they believe there is some “silver bullet” answer. The best leaders create systems for decision making and trust that process and their teams input and expertise within it.

3. Leaders have high contextual intelligence

Contextual intelligence refers to a person’s ability to take existing insights and knowledge and apply it in new ways and into new environments. Markets, buyers and competitors are continuously evolving, leaders need to be continuously curious about what’s changing and be clear sighted about the relative strengths strengths and unique value their organization has related to what’s happening.

High contextual intelligence shows itself in a leader’s openness to new and differing ideas, as what can look like an outlier on its own may, when incorporated in with other seemingly unrelated data, be the bones of the next new trend or revenue opportunity.

4. Great leaders are not superficial

Great leaders authentically care about forming and maintaining real relationships with superiors, peers and their teams. They reach beyond a superficial, transactional level to genuinely form mutually beneficial relationships.

Carucci and Hansen warn that it’s this trait which trips up most executive careers and it is the “second-best executives [who] were inclined to manage perceptions, creating the illusion of collaboration while masking self-interested motives”. To me, authenticity is the difference between “manipulation” and “true influence”. Leaders who manipulate their environments may win some battles, but they do so in an environment that breeds fear and distrust.

Carucci and Hansen affirm that the truly exceptional leaders consistently do all of these four things 4 well, while “good” leaders are good at just 2 or 3. Fortunately, these are all learnable skills so you can continue to aspire to be the great leader you know you can be — even if you’re still working for an average one.

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