Learning to Lead

What makes a leader successful, even outstanding?

Experts offer myriad answers to that question, touting lists of essential leadership traits or keys to effective management. Amid that great sea of counsel, most leaders in the American workplace must be highly skilled, constantly improving and commanding praise from subordinates--right?

I don't think so.

One of the common gripes I hear from colleagues, friends and family is about ineffective management where they work, which often triggers their discontent.

Still there is hope, floating in the sea of advice: In December BusinessWeek ran a piece by Marshall Goldsmith that explains leadership is about what higher-ups do, not about what they say. Companies often get stuck in a rut of talking too much about their vision of leadership instead of acting on it. Goldsmith and his partner Howard Morgan studied more than 11,000 managers at eight major corporations:

In our study we found that leaders who took training and feedback seriously, made a personal commitment to improvement, and followed up with their co-workers became more effective. Leaders who just listened to the talk but took no action or made no commitment improved no more than those who hadn’t even heard the talk.

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