The Science Behind Great Leadership
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The Science Behind Great Leadership

Mark Murphy, Chairman & CEO, Leadership IQ
Mark Murphy, Chairman & CEO, Leadership IQ

Mark Murphy, Chairman & CEO, Leadership IQ

Great leadership can be hard to come by. Consider the charismatic journeys of visionaries like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. While some might be of the opinion that these trailblazers were “born leaders,” in most cases, the kingpins of their respective business realms were not even picked to be “most likely to succeed” in their high school yearbooks. So what made them such out-of-the-ordinary leaders?

Today, the social media is brimming with hundreds of thousands of articles, guiding aspirants on ‘What makes a good leader?’ or ‘10 leadership guidelines one must emulate.’ But are these really deducing the equation correctly? Mark Murphy, an expert on organizational leadership, and author of several bestsellers, including the New York Times bestseller Hundred Percenters, believes that such inert approaches often miss the mark in providing the ‘101 of leadership.’ Successful leadership guidance should base its modus operandi on a firm foundation of scientific research. Driven by this conviction, Murphy established Leadership IQ. Backed by extensive research and Murphy’s profound experience in training corporate heads at the United Nations, Microsoft, Harvard Business School, and more, Leadership IQ’s mission is simple: to unravel the secrets to why some leaders are more effective than others, and turn that knowledge into a hyper-practical leadership training solution for today’s leaders.

The Era of Millennial Leaders

As organizational structure continues to be flattened, the role of present-day leaders has transformed significantly. Today, team leaders are not just obligated to fulfill their managerial responsibilities, but driven by the need to improve productivity, they also have to act as individual contributors to their teams. Having to endure this escalating pressure, the millennial leaders are stressed at all times. “Therefore, as a modern-age leadership development solution provider, one of our preliminary efforts has been to shun the antiquated leadership training methods and embrace new approaches that appeal to today’s leaders and workforce,” says Murphy.

  Leadership IQ’s mission is simple: to unravel the secrets to why some leaders are more effective than others, and turn that knowledge into a hyper-practical leadership training solution for today’s leaders 

All Leadership IQ’s initiatives to train great managers trace back to their research-focused approach. Murphy analogizes their client onboarding process with a doctor diagnosing a patient: “We like to do a thorough assessment of the company’s leadership roles and practices to investigate the core of the problem before starting the intervention,” says Murphy. Without clear evidence of what is going wrong in an organization, implementing training modules and hoping it works is not the wisest move. Moreover, the company offers a two-phased approach for all its leadership training programs. “First, we conduct an intensive in-person training in the initial stages, and then offer continuous bite-sized e-learning modules so that the leader can constantly keep honing his skills,” describes Murphy.

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

Conducting a survey of more than 5,000 hiring managers over a period of three years, Leadership IQ discovered that almost 46 percent of new hires fail within 18 months of joining a new job, and 89 percent of the time when somebody fails, it is because of attitudinal reasons—aspects like coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation, and temperament—and not for their lack of technical skills.

“Sometimes, candidates might have wonderful skills, but they are a poor fit when it comes to the organization’s culture and values,” states Murphy. Such wrong hires lead to greater employee attrition and an overall unsatisfied workforce. So Leadership IQ trains managers to hire for attitude. Murphy notes: “It turns out that most managers are asking questions that don’t reveal a candidate’s attitude. Our consultation, ‘Hiring for Attitude’ focuses on coaching leaders to conduct better interviews and help them determine the most important attitudinal qualities of a candidate.” He further says, “The key to framing successful interview questions is an approach that we call, ‘leave it hanging.’ Don’t add the little words at the end of an interview question that give away the right answer.”

Another significant aspect of this training module is guiding leaders on how to listen intently to a candidate’s responses and assess from the linguistic cues if the interviewee is a high or mediocre performer. While most leaders are considered excellent orators, when it comes to good listening, they fall short. Murphy explains that the art of judging a candidate’s performance level lies in carefully comprehending the candidate’s choice of words. “A high performer usually uses a lot of first-person pronouns and past tense verbs, whereas an average performer is more likely to use second- and third-person pronouns and future tense verbs,” he states.

  The classic leadership practice of sandwiching a compliment while sharing a constructive feedback with an employee has become outdated 

Truth at Work

Leadership IQ places the notion of delivering tough messages as the next most imperative pillar of a leader’s role. More often than not, leaders are faced with a hard job of having to deliver feedback, share bad news, and they have to do it in a way that doesn’t offend the employees. “And that’s where our next set of training expertise lies,” mentions Murphy. Leadership IQ’s studies show that leaders are generally emotional and passionate in their communication approach. However, when it comes to delivering difficult feedbacks, Murphy notes, “the most effective conversations are those that are based on facts, with no assumptions or personal remarks. The classic leadership practice of sandwiching a compliment while sharing constructive feedback with an employee has become outdated.” Driven to refresh the age-old techniques, Leadership IQ has specially designed training program, “Truth at Work,” which aims to coach a manager on how to best communicate with their teams.

Engaged Workforce: The Mark of a True Leader

From arranging potluck luncheons to organizing annual events, every organization has diverse non-conventional methodologies to ensure a happier workforce. Although the tactics are not entirely futile, Murphy believes that these ‘cookie-cutter’ approaches do not appeal to all the employees by the same token. “Every employee is unique and has their own set of motivational drivers. Some of them covet appreciation and acceptance, and some greater participation in decision-making, while others just want more security and stability in their jobs,” says Murphy. Leadership IQ helps leaders comprehend the motivational drivers of their employees with the help of an elaborate employee engagement survey program.

“Our survey, called the Hundred Percenter Index, uses scientific survey practices that precisely pinpoint the factors that spur engagement (and disengagement) among employees, and gives managers the exact roadmap and skills training to immediately increase performance,” explains Murphy.

Additionally, Leadership IQ also employs a practice called “shoves and tugs” conversation, wherein they train leaders to have a monthly (or quarterly) one-on-one conversation with the employees to understand the intricate details of what motivates or demotivates them. “A fascinating part of this approach is that it can lead the manager to explore new traits in their employees that they had no prior knowledge about,” remarks Murphy.

Training Great Managers Need Not Be an HR-Led Activity

A key aspect of learning new skills is also learning to take more ownership. Therefore, Leadership IQ employs a brilliant strategy to engage leaders through their training programs. Murphy explains: Imagine there are 400 managers in a company. Instead of training all the 400 leaders on the same topic, each leader is assigned an e-learning program, which coaches him/her on a particular skillset. Then the company organizes an internal leadership development exercise, where different managers trained in different skills lead the conversation and conduct group activities to share knowledge with the other managers. Employing this approach, a leadership development program no longer remains an HR-led effort but ties itself to the complete business, giving leaders an opportunity to start taking more ownership of their actions. Leadership IQ also offers dedicated programs to certify leadership trainers and provide those trainers with access to all its webinars and e-learning materials to coach a new leader.

To further substantiate the robustness of these unique leadership training practices, Murphy points out a success story of a large technology company. The tech-giant had approached Leadership IQ with two specific concerns: first, the company had high employee turnover, especially among their high performers, and second, it had a low employee engagement score. To dig deep into the root cause of the problems, Murphy and his team conducted a brief survey and used multiple regression analysis to arrive at a conclusion. The results showed that the employees felt disengaged because they could not share their work problems transparently with their bosses. Most often the managers would not even respond to the employees constructively and failed to encourage a healthy feedback mechanism. “We knew two things immediately,” says Murphy. Leadership IQ orchestrated intense training, helping leaders be more open and receptive to feedback, and then advised them to employ the monthly “shoves and tugs” conversation. Within three months, the technology company saw a 20 percent rise in their employee engagement, and their turnover rate dropped by 50 percent, which speaks volumes about Leadership IQ’s efficacious problem-solving capabilities.

Stepping Stones to Success

As the father of evolution, Charles Darwin, once said, “It is neither the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Murphy deems the same notion as a business leader’s stepping stone to success. In fact, Leadership IQ imbues a similar ‘always learning’ mindset, thereby exploring new research opportunities to build more robust leadership training solutions. This year, the biggest step for the company in its path of growth has been rolling out a publishing arm, Leadership IQ Press, to further expand its modes of reaching out to aspiring leaders. Advancing into the future, Leadership IQ’s focus on publishing a greater number of books, coupled with its intent to create small training snippets, is poised to spearhead a momentous transformation in the leadership development realm.

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