Effective Leadership, Defined

How do senior leaders, in their own words, describe the most effective leaders—the ones that get results, grow the business, enhance the culture, and leave in their wake a trail of other really effective leaders?

After surveying more than one million leaders worldwide, co-authors Robert (Bob) J. Anderson and William (Bill) A. Adams have drawn on their research to define leadership that works, that does not, that scales, and that limits scale, in their book SCALING LEADERSHIP: Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes that Matter Most (Wiley; hardcover; January 29, 2019).

Below, Anderson and Adams answer questions about effective leadership.

What prompted you to write this book?

The foundation of this book is research into what senior leaders say to one another when providing written 360 feedback. The results were so compelling when presented to the leadership teams we work with, we just had to write a book about them.

There are any number of windows in this book that shed light into how senior leaders describe the kind of leadership that works and can scale, and the kind of leadership that does not and can not. We wrote our first book—Mastering Leadership—to elaborate a Universal Model of Leadership based on our learning from more than one million rater surveys in our database of 360-degree leader assessments. We used what we learned from that in-depth review to build the foundation of what great leadership looks like, and how anyone can become a better leader.

We wrote our latest book—Scaling Leadership—to provide leaders with a proven system for developing effective leadership throughout every level of their organizations. This, we believe, is essential for businesses of any size in every industry to grow and thrive today and in the future.

What does effective leadership look like?

What is so unusual about this book is that we (the authors) are not answering this question. We leave that to senior leaders. The reader gets to “listen in” on how they talk about this in the most intimate and important of conversations—providing another leader feedback on what will make them more effective.

When we look at what they say makes a leader more effective, and what leadership is really all about, the characteristics revealed go hand in hand with what it means to be a well-rounded, integral human being. At its very heart, leadership is all about building the deep relationships required to develop effectiveness in teams and to support the growth of other leaders.

Leaders who effectively transform their organizations are radically human. They lead vulnerably (learning alongside those they lead) and authentically. They are profoundly purposeful—the kind of person who brings something to the planet and who gives back—producing results that makes a difference in the world.

To read more on leadership, check out these Octane articles.

What are some of the key differences between Creative and Reactive leadership?

Reactive leaders lead from their own unique capability, tending to identify with certain strengths—overdeveloping them while underdeveloping others. Reactive leaders emphasize caution over creating results, self-protection over productive engagement, and aggression over building alignment. These self-limiting leadership styles overemphasize the focus on gaining the approval of others, protecting oneself, and getting results through high-control tactics.

Creative leaders, on the other hand, are less self-centric and are much more about developing the capacity and capability of others and the organization. They are approachable and skillful in working with people, listen well, build high-performing teams, mentor and develop capability in others, and empower their people. Creative Leaders embody their vision calmly and with integrity and courage, and improve organizational systems.

In your book, you state that women are more effective leaders. How did you come to that conclusion?

In our research of 300 senior leaders from 237 companies in 29 industries and 6 countries, we found that women leaders are making a notable contribution to leadership in their organizations. And while women are underrepresented in the sample (62 percent men to 38 percent women, which is consistent with the ratio in our overall norm base), they are overrepresented in the High-Creative group (54 percent) and significantly underrepresented in the High-Reactive group (22 percent). In other words, senior women leaders are consistently rated as more Creative and less Reactive than are their male counterparts.

When we study our entire norm base, women are rated 15 to 20 percentile points more Creative than men. We know that’s not a surprise to women, but it’s not typically the reason why we pay so much attention to gaining diversity in our leadership.

The data shows that women lead more effectively than men, and we’ve been doing everything we can in our society for as many years to keep them out of leadership. Why? We wish we could explain it—we just don’t have a good answer to this troubling question.

If you’re not leading the way in your company by making leadership more inclusive and leveraging the full power and potential of female leadership, then you’re not doing your job. Stated even more strongly, we men can all learn from what women are bringing to leadership.

If readers took away one thing from reading your book, what do you hope it would be?

The Peter Principle has been revised. The High-Reactive, ineffective senior leaders we meet are as brilliant and competent as the High-Creative leaders. They are not meeting their level of incompetence. They are meeting their level of development. Their development has not kept pace with the expanded complexity of their roles. They need to develop into the kind of leader that can scale leadership. Everyone has the seeds within them to become truly great leaders, and to nurture great leadership in others. In these times of business volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, effective leadership is needed more than ever before.

Robert J. Anderson has been a pace setter in the field of leadership development for over 30 years. He is the founder, chairman, and chief development officer of The Leadership Circle and Full Circle Group.

William A. Adams is co-founder and CEO of Full Circle Group and The Leadership Circle. Adams has over 30 years of experience as a trusted advisor to CEOs and their teams around the globe.

When Is a Business Accelerator a Better Option Than Business School?

Ryan Villanueva is an entrepreneur, educator and co-founder of Best Delegate, a rapidly growing education company with a goal of making Model United Nations a worldwide program in order to help this generation of students lead the world to a better, more peaceful, just, and sustainable future. As a graduate of EO Accelerator and a current EO Boston member, Ryan says that he “shares huge debt of gratitude toward the EO Accelerator program for its impact on my business and my own professional development.”

I couldn’t have joined EO Accelerator at a better time. In 2014, my co-founder and I decided to hire our first employees. It had been just the two of us up to that point, until we realized we couldn’t handle all the work required to run a growing business if we didn’t hire. Now we were about to hire fresh college graduates who were entrusting us with the beginning of their careers—and livelihoods!

We didn’t have a board, a business coach or even the right books to guide us. We had to figure out hiring, on-boarding and training. We wanted new hires to understand what we do—heck, we, the co-founders, needed to understand what we do, and get it out of our heads and actually write it down.

And we needed a “system” for managing the company, even remotely. Our entire team would be remote, spread out across the U.S., and traveling frequently for projects. When you can’t look over someone’s shoulder, how do you hold them accountable?

Thankfully, I was introduced to the EO Accelerator program because of David Carnes. His office hosted the first Learning Day I attended. An hour into that day, I thought to myself, “Where has this been all my life?” I found a community of entrepreneurs going through the challenges of building a business. We discussed questions and learned tools that I could see how I could apply to my business.

Learn more about Ryan’s story by watching this video.

I had been considering business school for a while, and I felt like I found a better alternative with Accelerator. The event wasn’t an academic exercise where I needed to memorize every single concept and pass an exam. It was all about the practical—one or two things that could be applied and have an immediate impact. I also couldn’t see myself running a company while going to school. By contrast, Accelerator’s quarterly Learning Days and monthly accountability groups provided a good balance between running a company and then pressing “pause” to do professional development. Accelerator was not only a better, more reasonable time commitment; it served as a timely reminder to work not just “in” the business, but “on” the business.

After the Learning Day, I got signed up with a mentor and joined an accountability group. I now had a mini “board” that I could go to for guidance. I appreciated how much we learned just by sharing each other’s experiences, as well as the direct advice offered by a grizzled mentor.

After joining EO Accelerator, I gained the tools I needed to manage a young but fast growing team. I developed an “Operating System” comprising the tools, concepts and processes learned through EO Accelerator, which could be used to manage a purely remote company. I got the “right books” and made them required reading for my employees.

Three years later, my company more than doubled in revenue and size. I graduated out of Accelerator into joining EO as a full member. I continue to attend Learning Days and volunteer for the Accelerator program.

Read other stories from EO Accelerator participants.

I often meet with entrepreneurs who run small but growing businesses, and who don’t know about Accelerator or EO. They share with me their challenges and I share my Accelerator experience with them. And when they ask me whether Accelerator is worth it, I just tell them: wherever they are with their business—there’s no better time to join.

Are you a founder who’s ready to take your business to the next level of growth? Or maybe you’ve been at it a while and need a push to bring your business further. Check out how EO Accelerator can help you.

7 Productivity Tips for Entrepreneurs

Save time and lower stress with these productivity tips from Bryce Welker, a CPA and the founder of Crush The CPA Exam as well as an EO San Diego member.

I’ve spent quite a long time working as an entrepreneur, but not all of that time has been productive. I’ve made many mistakes in the past and wasted a great deal of time as a consequence. However, I’ve learned some useful tricks over the years that have managed to cut down on wasted time while also reducing stress. If you apply these tips to your daily life, you should see positive results like I did!

Tip 1: Observe the Golden Hour

This is a term used by photographers in reference to a special time of day ideal for taking nature photographs. However, it’s also used by entrepreneurs and productivity gurus to refer to the first hour of the day after you wake up. This one hour can set the tone for the rest of your day: Use it constructively by exercising or meditating and try to avoid arguments, junk food, or other things that can throw you off your game.

Tip 2: Use Time-Management Techniques

There are many different time-management techniques being advertised as the panacea for unmotivated, exasperated, and stressed-out entrepreneurs. However, the truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all method of dividing your time between work and breaks. Instead, you should try different methods and see what works best. I recommend starting with The Pomodoro Technique or (10+2)x5 and going from there.

Tip 3: Take Long Walks

If you’re already familiar with common productivity tips and tricks, chances are high that you’ve successfully incorporated regular exercise into your routine. However, consider swapping out those morning jogs with a long walk instead to get your creative juices flowing. This is a pastime that some of the brightest minds in history would partake in: Nietzsche, Goethe, Beethoven, and Steve Jobs, just to name a few.

Tip 4: Get a Second (or Third) Display

This is another tip many computer-oriented professionals, like programmers and graphic designers, likely already do. However, it bears repeating: delegating emails or spreadsheets to separate monitors can drastically improve your multitasking capabilities. I personally like to have at least one vertical monitor for reading and writing documents.

Tip 5: Reduce Blue Light

Although blue light can help improve energy and is good for the environment, too much exposure to this light frequency can have negative health effects. In order to continue having productive and low-stress work days, try to tone down the blue light as the sun sets later in the day. Look for a night mode on your smartphone and use free software like f.lux on your desktop computer.

Tip 6: Reduce Workspace Clutter

You’ve probably felt the stressful effects of a cluttered living space or workspace first-hand, but there’s also scientific evidence confirming that messy environments can lead to anxiety and limited productivity. If you’re having a tough time cleaning out your desk or office, I recommend looking into the KonMari method of tidying up.

Tip 7: Unplug Before Bed

Reducing blue light, as was previously mentioned, is important to ensure you have a good night’s sleep. However, you should go a step further and completely disconnect from any electronic distractions, such as a smartphone, tablet, or television, for at least an hour before going to bed. You may want to try listening to some music or reading a few pages of a book instead.

The Bottom Line

The greatest thing about these tips is they don’t require you to completely turn your life upside down. Think of these simple tips and tweaks as minor lifestyle changes. Although they may sound insignificant, the truth is that they can provide long-term rewards in the form of increased output and better health. Believe me: If I had taken advantage of these methods earlier in my career, I would have saved myself so much time and effort.

Bryce Welker is a self-made entrepreneur, CPA and the founder of Crush The CPA Exam, a diverse network of lead generation and product review websites in numerous verticals. Bryce lives in La Jolla, California, and loves driving fast cars and bungee jumping.