Lopsided leadership - Competencies come in pairs

Two beautiful young businesswoman posing in the office.

In previous blogs (see links below), we asserted that leadership strengths training is so popular that we fail to recognize when strengths are overused. Most leaders are familiar with the concept of leadership competency skill sets coming in pairs. Multiple assessment tools classify people’s preferences as either

  • “task-oriented” vs. “people-oriented", 
  • “big picture” vs. “detail-oriented” or
  • “analytic” vs. “intuitive”.

There are many different models of leadership competencies. One model proposed by Kaiser and Kaplan in their book Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013) illustrates the tension of dualities that arise in the execution of leadership responsibilities. 

“…there are two core dualities that confront all leaders: the need to be forceful combined with the need to be enabling, and the need to have a strategic focus combined with the need to have an operational focus. Together these dualities constitute the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of leading.”

Kaiser and Kaplan have used their Leadership Versatility Index (LVI), a 360-degree assessment tool, with more than 7,000 managers who have been rated by 60,000 coworkers. Their results show that the more forceful leaders are, the less enabling they’re likely to be. Strategic and operational leadership are also inversely related.

Big-picture/visionary leaders tend to struggle with implementation. Masters of implementation tend to ignore or underplay strategy. The same holds true for the forceful/enabling dynamic, Kaiser and Kaplan note.

The LVI data reveal a strong association between strategic leadership and high scores on curiosity and open-mindedness, coupled with low scores on rule-abiding/detail-orientation. The opposite associations were found for operational leadership.

Forceful and enabling leadership related to a different set of traits. Forceful leadership was associated with high scores on ambition and low scores on interpersonal sensitivity. Enabling leadership was associated with the opposite scores. 

  • Strategically oriented leaders are often lauded for their aggressiveness and vision, but criticized for not being sufficiently grounded in reality. 
  • Operationally oriented leaders are often admired for their focus and ability to systematically drive an organization toward its goals, but they are also faulted for having tunnel vision and a lack of strategic boldness.

LVI research also reveals 97% of managers who overdo forceful leadership in some respect also under do enabling leadership, according to their coworkers. 

Additionally, 94% who overdo operational leadership in some way also under do strategic leadership. Yet, only 55% of the managers rated by coworkers as using too much of a leadership attribute rated themselves as overdoing that attribute.

Complicated analysis!

  • In what camp do you see yourself - Strategic or Operational?
  • Where does overplaying competencies show up for you and how you lead?
  • What have you observed in other leaders in your organization?
  • What leadership model is most prevalent in your organization?
  • Does this model contribute to lopsided leadership in your organization? 

We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. We are interested in starting a conversation about the value we can bring to your organization. We help leaders to be effective by recognizing and utilizing their competencies while adapting their behaviour in situations that require a different approach. Our clients become aware of their particular way-of-leading by participating in various assessments: Emotional Intelligence, Emergenetics, and the Emerson Suite 3D Personal Profile for leadership and management effectiveness.

Contact Patricia Muir at patricia@maestroquality.com, at 416-804-4383, on LinkedInMaestro’s FacebookTwitter.

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