Extraordinary Leaders Around the World

August 18, 2022

Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting with one of the best-led organizations in the world. The senior executive team scored at the 72nd percentile, and the 60 next-level executives were at the 69th percentile. Comparing the results for leaders in this company to the norms of over 2,000 leaders we have assessed across Mexico demonstrates their effectiveness. The norm for leaders across Mexico is at the 43rd percentile. This is because most organizations in Mexico have not invested in as much leadership development. Before traveling to Mexico, I analyzed their 360-assessment data, and I admit that I was a bit skeptical that perhaps respondents were encouraged to rate leaders more positively. However, as I met with the senior team, I found the opposite attitude. Respondents were encouraged to be honest and even blunt in their feedback.

What is the Secret to Being One of the Best-Led Organizations?

Before my visit, I thought that perhaps they were a business where profits and success were easy to achieve. However, in my discussions with the CEO, he talked about their struggles in the pandemic and being a few days away from insolvency. This was a difficult business with very competent competitors.

During our lunch with the executive team, we had a wide-ranging conversation, but when it turned to sports (football, soccer, basketball, and car racing), I noticed this was a very competitive group. These leaders liked winning. I also noticed how every person on the team was included. There were no outsiders. As our lunch began, I did not know which person was the CEO. Usually, it’s very noticeable because of the deference people pay to a CEO. In this case, it took about 30 minutes for me to figure it out.

The two insights that came out of our lunch were; first, the organization and its leaders were very competitive, and second, there was a clear effort to make everyone feel included. So often in international organizations, women are in the minority, and that was true, but they had recruited three very competent, capable women who played important roles in the team. These three women were some of the most highly rated leaders in the organization.

We have researched the impact of having a very good or poor leader. Basically, the research revealed those direct reports who work for an excellent leader were assessed as being significantly above average themselves as leaders. The direct reports who worked for a very poor leader were rated significantly below average. People are significantly influenced by those they work with. Looking at the data for this organization, I discovered there were amazing leaders scattered all over the organization. Some were male, and some were female; some were young and others old. Different functions had some amazing leaders, and others who were not as effective and still learning. Having excellent leaders scattered across the organization influences others to also become better leaders.

— Joe Folkman

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