Dictators Vs. Pushovers: How To Effectively Motivate Others To Great Results

Have you ever debated which superhero would prevail in a fight against another? If you put Iron Man against Batman, who would win? While I don’t claim to be an expert on knowing the strengths of superheroes, I am familiar with the strengths that are needed for effective leadership. My colleague Jack Zenger and I identified two capabilities around motivating others and examined how each impacted a leader’s effectiveness. The capabilities were identified by looking at correlations between 577 individual self-assessments on an index that measures a person’s preference to be more directive or collaborative, compared to 360-degree assessments of effectiveness from direct reports.

The items with the highest positive correlations we called the “Driver Index.” Drivers were rated more positively on the following five behaviors.

Drivers

1. Anticipate and respond quickly to problems.

2. Do everything possible to achieve goals.

3. Achieve goals in the time allotted.

4. Follow through on objectives.

5. Establish high standards of excellence.

 

The items with the strongest negative correlations we called the “Enhancer Index.”  Enhancers were rated more positively on the following five behaviors.

Enhancers

1. Balance results with concern for others.

2. Stay in touch with others’ issues and concerns.

3. Encourage others to consider new approaches or ideas.

4. Find ways to improve ideas from others rather than discourage them.

5. Are concerned about developing others.

 

Winners And Losers
We looked at 360-degree assessment results from over 74,000 leaders and identified leaders who were rated significantly higher on one of the indexes, as well as those who were about equal on their effectiveness on the two indexes. We found that 41% of our leaders were rated significantly higher on Enhancing, 37% were significantly higher on Driving, and 22% were equal on both. This means that 80% of the population of leaders tend to lean or rely on one approach more than the other. This is a bit like being right or left handed. We can still use our other hand, but our tendency is to favour one over the other. Our next question was, which capability would win in a battle.

We looked at areas where drivers and enhancers excelled and found that they were almost evenly split on the number of issues that were impacted. The following table shows the top five factors where each group was rated significantly more positive.

While both sets of outcomes are desirable, on the majority of items we found that the group who had similar skills in both Driving and Enhancing scored higher than those who favoured one capability over the other.

The graph below shows the overall leadership effectiveness rating, which includes responses from all raters (manager, peers, direct reports, and others). While the absolute difference in these ratings are small due to the large sample size, they are all statistically significant. Notice the “Overall Effectiveness Total for All Raters” shows that those leaders who utilized both skills were rated more positively. But for Managers, Peers, and Others, Drivers had a higher rating than Enhancers. This is especially strong for the Managers. What a manager wants to see in their direct reports is a strong emphasis on driving to deliver results. The enhancing skills are not irrelevant, but they are less important. When asked to rank 16 competencies on importance, managers ranked Drive for Results as the number one most important competency for their direct reports.

Direct reports, on the other hand, rate Drivers the lowest. Enhancers are rated significantly higher, but those leaders who do both are rated the highest. This all makes a lot of sense. The superhero with more than one skill will likely win more battles than the superhero with only one ability.

What Is Your Tendency?

If you look at the percentages, about 80% of the leaders are either Drivers or Enhancers. Most have not methodologically chosen to emphasize one over the other. However, over time, their exposure to role models—either positive or negative—influenced them to lean in one direction. In most cases, leaders are better off doing both rather than relying on one capability over the other. I have found that when people have chosen a side they become somewhat jaded about the other capability. Either those Drivers are just a bunch of authoritarian dictators, or those Enhancers are a bunch of soft-hearted pushovers.

While it can be fun to debate who would win in a fight between Iron Man and Batman, the reality is that it’s better for everyone if they work together. In much the same way, the best approach is to be able to use both Driving and Enhancing well. Start to see the value of doing something a different way. Depending on the situation, one capability will work better than the other. Rather than just going with your knee-jerk first reaction, ask yourself this question, “Which capability will work better in this situation?” and consciously choose how you will respond.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

 To learn more about Zenger Folkman’s research on speed click here.

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