Do a Google search on “leadership theories” and it produces 1.2 million hits. Do a search on “leadership training programs” and the result is over 30 million hits. What does this suggest? According to Angie Tsai, the Organization Effectiveness and Development Director (Asia Pacific/Japan) for EMC: “This shows that while there is lots of interest in leadership and everyone has an opinion there is no one common approach. No single answer.” And after leading off with these statistics, Angie pointed out that “leadership is as much about personal choice as anything else.” She maintained that being a leader, ultimately, is about “who you are as a person.” Self-awareness, she maintained, was the most common attribute of successful leaders.
Angie indicated that for 60-70 percent of all employees, regardless of when the survey was taken or what occupation or industry was represented, the “most stressful part of their jobs is their immediate supervisors.” It is our immediate boss/manager/leader who has the most impact on us and makes the difference in whether we stay or leave, produce or retire on the job. She did acknowledge that it takes time to work out a relationship with one’s supervisor but it is well worth the time and energy. She pointed out that she has been at EMC for the longest time period of any job, and it is the hardest job she has ever had.
Finally, Angie was of the opinion that multi-rater feedback works best when people have a competent third-party or coach who can help them understand the data and how to make any appropriate changes. She believed that it was important to be self-aware about your strengths and weaknesses, for which 360-degree feedback was crucial. Working on your strengths was important, she argued, except for when these became weaknesses through an over-reliance upon them or when they result in arrogance. Her list of key leadership attributes included: self-awareness, vision, energy, integrity, cognitive complexity, creating options for execution, genuine interest in people and being more optimistic and agreeable than pessimistic and disagreeable. Angie urged those just starting out their careers to find opportunities to volunteer for additional assignments, especially special projects and cross-functional task forces, as a context in which to develop leadership capabilities.
No question about it: Leaders make a difference.