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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Giombetti: What Makes a Great Leader

by Shel Horowitz

FBC sponsors Rick Giombetti and Paul Alves of Giombetti Associates were back to the Family Business Center December 12 to tell members "What Makes a Great Leader" - a program that led perfectly into Alan Robinson's feature presentation on great companies.

At FBC director Ira Bryck's urging, Giombetti and Alves went back through their mountain of data to extract something new: 31 leaders they felt had had an impact not only within the leaders' own companies, but on Giombetti's own approach to business. These 31 were the "cream of the crop" out of 671 high-performance, successful leaders they'd previously identified in17 years of research.

Here's what they found: there are a few small but significant differences between these ultra-successful leaders and the merely successful ones. In particular, they have more realistic expectations of other people, and they also have better people skills.

They are able to balance people skills and accountability; people want to give them their very best, because they not only motivate, but inspire trust.

The trend toward strong people skills was not a factor in selection, but arose out of the data. As Giombetti put it, "We did not look at their personality profiles when we selected them." Yet, 87% have exceptional to very well developed people skills, and only 13% have poor people skills - the ones Giombetti calls "the productivity guys."

As those who've been attending FBC or reading this newsletter for a while are aware, the Giombetti approach analyzes various personality traits, charts the effective range, and plots each individual's scores on the graph. The effective ranges will rarely be above 80 or below 30 percent, with some variance by category. For instance, the effective range for dominance is 50 to 80, while for accommodation, it's about 35 to 65 percent.

The "cream" leaders scored almost identically to the generally effective leaders in several categories: an ultra-high score for energy of 93, a 70 for competition (at the top of the effective range), another high-effectiveness score of 56-57 for collaboration.

But clear differences arose in other categories. "Cream" leaders are more dominant (83 versus 75%), are seen less as authority figures (13 versus 21), and are considerably less disciplined (63 versus 80). And not surprisingly they rank eight points higher in communication (59 compared to 51).

Giombetti shared some insight about what the numbers mean: 87% set very high expectations or are extremely competitive "Lack of accommodation drives accountability. They push hard, but they're respected, highly regarded because they are people people. But they're tough nuts, they don't accept mediocrity. They're opinionated, and opinions drive initiatives. These 31 scored higher for social skills than the 671, but they have good business sense. They are as confident as the larger group. They have vision, they're very intelligent."

To which Alves added, "Strong leadership requires assertiveness, accountability, but you've got to have the warm fuzzy stuff too, be willing to communicate and collaborate." The final part of their presentation focused on what to avoid: how not to have an egomaniac, greedy leader. These are people who can kill a company. They're highly dominant loners who have practically no good will or social skills, can rationalize anything, and never want to make any accommodation or compromise. They're bright, seductive - and scary! Don't put them in control of your company, unless you want your crash and burn on the front page of the newspaper.

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