An article published in the McKinsey Quarterly, Decoding Leadership: What Really Matters, addresses the most effective types of leadership behaviors that organizations should be encouraging.[i]
McKinsey’s study included empirical insights from their own practical experiences, a search of relevant academic literature, and then their survey results from other organizations. They developed a broad list of possible behavior types and subsequently refined the list to what they determined to be the most desirable leadership behaviors.
Of all the possible behaviors, McKinsey identified a small number that were most prevalent among the front-line leaders in a diverse group of high-quality organizations, i.e., the leadership behaviors that most closely correlated with organizational success.
Two of McKinsey’s highlighted leadership behaviors are as follows:
“Seeking different perspectives. This trait is conspicuous in managers who monitor trends affecting organizations, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues, and give the appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Leaders who do well on this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.
Supporting others. Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency, allaying unwarranted fears about external threats and preventing the energy of employees from dissipating into internal conflict.”
While McKinsey validates these two leadership behaviors as positive core behaviors for today’s business professional, we shouldn’t be surprised that both of these behaviors are established biblical principles supported by God’s Word. McKinsey published them in January 2015 and God “published” them a few millennia ago.
Let’s consider the two behaviors from a scriptural point of view.
Seeking different perspectives.
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” “[A]dvisers” used here refers to people with whom you share intimate counsel. Intimate in the sense of a shared affinity, cause, or common purpose. This verse is telling us that our chances of achieving success in a given endeavor will improve when we first deliberate with others who are knowledgeable in the subject matter at hand.
In today’s marketplace landscape your advisors could include your coworkers at all levels, customers, consultants, industry colleagues, professional associations, periodicals, books, and/or academia.
The most effective leaders are safe to approach and easy to talk to. They embrace a diversity of views and are open to contemporary, even strange, ideas. The converse of this type of leader is the know-it-all who punishes contrary opinion and shuts down debate—or as the saying goes: the bigger the ego; the smaller the ears.
Seek perspective from the people you value in the spirit of Proverbs 1:5: “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Wise business leaders reach out, ask questions, and consider divergent opinions.
As Christians we are quick to support the good work of others because we are endowed with the spirit of edification. We prefer to build people up rather than tear them down—this is our nature in Christ.
Paul is referring to the spirit of edification in 2 Corinthians 10:8 when he says: “For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.” (NIV). In this verse, Paul is telling the church that the purpose of his influence over them is “for building you up rather than pulling you down.” The NKJV translates Paul’s words as “for edification and not for your destruction.”
When it comes to the people we work with (at all levels), we Christians do construction and not destruction.
In Matthew 22:39 Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Your neighbor is every person who is close by whether a believer or non-believer, and these include all of the people you engage with in the marketplace. To love a co-worker is to support them and wish them well. This type of love is moral and fruit-bearing—it’s a sincere expression of good will toward another. The office critic pushes people down, but the edifying Christian lifts them up.
Affirming the contributions of your colleagues will bring out their best work. Supporting them fosters organizational teamwork and a higher level of personal performance. Speak to the good in the people you work with.
McKinsey’s contemporary research and the teachings of the Bible are in agreement that the application of these two simple leadership behaviors—seeking different perspectives and supporting others—will yield positive results in today’s marketplace.
[i] McKinsey Quarterly, Decoding leadership: What really matters; January 2015 by Claudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol, and Ramesh Srinivasan (mckinsey.com).
This article by Patrick Layhee was first published in The Kingdom Economy blog at The Center for Christianity in Business at Houston Baptist University (hbu.edu).