Leadership Studies

Access in-depth research on leadership development by downloading one of our leadership studies.

How Developing a Coaching Culture Pays Off

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

Developing a coaching culture will improve productivity, employee engagement, retention, employee development, and supervisor performance.

According to our research, employees would like to receive a good deal more coaching from their manager than they currently receive. Despite this attitude and strong belief on the part of the employee group, managers continue to be reluctant to provide the coaching that employees desire.

In this white paper, we describe how organizations can create this coaching culture.


Leadership Studies — April, 2024

12 Components of the Best 360-Degree Assessments

By Joe Folkman & Jack Zenger

360-degree assessments are the backbone of most corporations’ leadership development programs. But not all surveys are in the same class as far as quality, the effectiveness of the implementation process, and the added services that they offer.

While many organizations technically have the capability to construct a 360 process internally, more than 95% of those conducting 360 assessments use an external organization to supply this service. Because the external organization specializes in measurement, they bring a higher level of sophistication and flexibility to the 360-degree assessments they design.

In this white paper, the authors outline the crucial elements for a best-in-class 360-degree assessment.


Leadership Studies — April, 2024

Key Insights From The Extraordinary Leader

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

We have known for some time that huge differences exist between top performers and average performers in any job category. Being good at one thing is sufficient for some athletes or musicians, but seldom for leaders. Our research confirmed that a combination of competencies is the key to being highly effective.

Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman share 20 key insights from The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders.

Leadership Studies — February, 2024

The New Leadership Frontier: Coachability

By Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman, and Kevin Wilde

A good deal of pressure is currently placed on leaders to be better coaches. However, in following that path, leaders are taught to give feedback but seldom how to receive it. A simple Google trends search shows that the search term “How to Give Feedback” outranks “How to Receive Feedback” by 10 to 1. All the focus on the recipient’s success is placed on the shoulders of the coach.

Why are we so blatantly ignoring the other half of the coaching equation?

All the time and investments in an individual’s training and development hinge on their ability to be COACHABLE. This leadership study explores coachability, how it benefits leaders at every level, and provides a roadmap to guide development.

Leadership Studies — July, 2023

How Extraordinary Leaders Are Made

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

The famed artist Michelangelo Buonarroti said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”

This observation seems especially relevant to leadership. The decisions a leader makes regarding their leadership behavior have a profound impact on their career, the performance of those reporting to them, and the performance of the organization they work for. While the vast majority of leaders began their careers with the target of being a good accountant, engineer, marketer, or analyst, few set their sights on being an extraordinary leader.

This study explores five important insights we have gained after decades of work in leadership development. These insights can help every leader improve, and many become truly extraordinary.

Leadership Studies — April, 2022

Leveraging the Power of Simplicity

By Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

The thought that someone would give their life for a simple solution to a complex situation is overly dramatic, in our opinion. However, if there was any topic that would benefit from a simple solution, it is how individuals can become better leaders, and how organizations enable that process.

Using over 15 years of research the authors confirm that there are six leadership behaviors and can have the most significant impact on overall leadership effectiveness. These behaviors were so influential that having a profound strength in any one of them brought a leader nearly to the top quartile of all leaders. Download the whitepaper to learn more about these leadership behaviors.

Leadership Studies — April, 2020

Better Sales Leaders, Better Results

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

While salespeople have usually enjoyed a great deal of training and development on selling techniques and strategy, sales managers typically do not receive commensurate development on how they can be more effective leaders of the sales function. For many people in sales, they question the correlation between leadership capability and sales results.

Better sales leaders mean higher revenue. Few, if any, other functions in the company can do more to enhance the organization’s profit quickly or cause the company to lose money. Zenger Folkman has collected data on over 10,000 sales managers and executives. This leadership study explores that data to show how leadership development creates better sales leaders.

Leadership Studies — November, 2019

What Great Listeners Actually Do

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

In our experience, most people think good listening comes down to doing three things:
• Not talking when others are speaking.
• Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal cues.
• Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word.

However, our recent research suggests that these behaviors fall far short of describing good listening skills. We analyzed data describing the behavior of 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches. We learn what the great listeners actually do.

Leadership Studies — August, 2019

Filling the Leadership Pipeline

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

There is general agreement that organizational success is driven in large part by the effectiveness of the leadership team. Technology may give the firm an edge, and operational excellence helps, yet leadership effectiveness has been shown to be the single most powerful driving force for an organization’s success. The fact is, most organizations are not addressing the magnitude and scope of the gaps in the leadership pipeline.

This problem can be solved. However, the solution is not to heave ever-larger sums of money at the issue. We have seen many organizations spend huge amounts with no visible results, while others who spend much smaller amounts show evidence of real success. Our experience shows that there are six fundamental elements of a highly productive leadership development effort.

In this leadership study, Jack and Joe discuss the six factors for effective organizational leadership development.


Leadership Studies — August, 2019

Expand Learning Through Continued Development

By Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman, and Jared Harding

What happens after a learning and development event? The dearth of effective action after learning events in the ongoing Achilles’ heal of learning and development. Most recognize that the real impact of development is found in the continuous journey of learning and skill mastery.

Expanding learning recognizes the individuality of the learner and the fast-paced changes within the world of work. The most effective way to continue development is through a mindset and practice of expanding learning.

Leadership Studies — August, 2019

Creating a Modern Competency Model

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

Nearly every company that decides to actively embark on developing more effective leaders begins in an obvious way: by identifying the behaviors and characteristics they seek to develop in their leaders.

Where organizations get stuck is in finding an optimal path toward creating this competency model. Zenger Folkman offers a less complex competency model for those organizations striving for simplicity.

In this white paper, Jack and Joe discuss how to move from opinion to research as a method for creating a meaningful competency model.

Leadership Studies — August, 2019

Leadership Under the Microscope

By Jack Zenger Joe Folkman and Kurt Sandholtz

Multiple factors combine to determine the ultimate success or failure of a leader. The variables are interdependent and difficult to isolate. But complexity doesn’t justify surrender. On the contrary, the study of leadership begs for a more scientific approach.

What is this thing we call leadership? In thousands of books on the subject, we have yet to find two that use the same definition. Success in understanding any complex field requires researchers to apply scientific rigor and then share their findings.

In this leadership study, the authors put leadership under the microscope and offer a more scientific approach to the complexity of leadership.

Leadership Studies — May, 2019

Creating a Competency Model that Works

By Joe Folkman

After 30 years of creating, reviewing, and revising hundreds of different competency models, we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly ones. Experience gives us a very clear perspective on what can be done to create a competency model not only more memorable but also incredibly useful to an organization.

In this paper, we will share the key features that are critical when creating a great competency model.


Leadership Studies — May, 2019

Leadership Development: Are You Starting Too Late?

By Jack Zenger

How important is leadership development? At what age is it optimal to begin developing leadership skills? Are we starting too late? In this whitepaper, Jack Zenger shares his opinion along with supportive data.

Unfortunately, most organizations wait too long to begin developing leaders. As a result, not only do organizations pay a big price, but individual careers are less than they could be, and society overall suffers. A clear change is required in the timing of an organization’s leadership development programs.

At what age should leadership development start?

Leadership Studies — May, 2019

Global Leadership Development

By Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman, and Chris Evans

Businesses are becoming more global, which in turn drives the need for more leaders. But these cannot be the “same old, same old” leaders. Global leadership adds new dimensions.

The seriousness of this issue escalates when you hear from CEOs that the current shortage of such leadership is serving as a major constraint on their organizational growth. One-third of global organizations have identified global leadership as a serious constraint and 70 percent of companies expect to increase overseas assignments this year.

In this article, see what needs to be done to implement a global leadership development program.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Can Leadership Strengths Be Taken Too Far?

By Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman, Bob Sherwin and Barbara Steel

A commonly held belief is that leadership strengths are taken too far cease to be strengths and become liabilities or weaknesses.

We take an entirely opposite point of view from Kaplan and Kaiser. We think it is terribly confusing to tell people to work on a strength whilst simultaneously monitoring themselves to determine when they become too effective or use the strength too much.

In this article, see why we have taken an entirely opposite point of view.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Leadership Development 6.0

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

Like all fields, the discipline of leadership development seeks to constantly improve. Another discipline that strives for continual progress is the field of medical practice. We can read on a daily basis about medical studies and programs that aim to help us live healthier, longer lives.

The health care system conducts an enormous amount of research as they attempt to push back the borders of knowledge. We propose looking to the field of medicine for powerful lessons that can apply to all disciplines.

We believe they apply particularly well to leadership development.

In this article, thought leaders Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman apply the principles of medicine to leadership development.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Developing Strengths or Weaknesses

By Jack Zenger

One of the basic questions facing everyone creating a personal development plan is the fundamental question of whether to focus attention on correcting faults and failings or to focus on building strengths. Though the question appears simple, the answer depends on the competencies of the person involved— and the answer for any one person can vary over time.

Compelling evidence supports the idea that leaders who focus on their strengths have greater success in their development plans.

Thought leader Jack Zenger illustrates why building strengths is the key to a strong development plan.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

How Extraordinary Leaders Double Profits

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

Can extraordinary leaders double profits?

Business success can be attributed to many causes. These range from the industry you are in, a dramatic new technology that you’ve discovered, an unusually well-designed product, a brilliant strategy, the timing of beginning your enterprise, and yes, plain old good luck. We acknowledge that all of these can ac- count for an organization’s success.

There is one factor, however, that is consistent and predictable in its impact on the success of every business. That is the quality of leadership inside the organization. This paper addresses the evidence we have for the relationship between leadership and business out-comes and explores the likely reasons for that occurring. Finally, it describes what organizations can do to develop excellent leaders.


Leadership Studies — April, 2019

9 Vital Leadership Behaviors That Boost Employee Productivity

By Joe Folkman

During times of economic trouble, it is common to see layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, and budget reductions. Morale is often low among the employees who are fortunate enough to retain their jobs. Productivity suffers, as well as employee satisfaction with their jobs and organization. Some lose hope, and many lose faith in the traditional model of capittalism.

It’s times like these that many executives and management personnel find a place to hide until the storm blows over, avoiding dealing with profit losses and confrontations with employees. However, if leaders do just the opposite and focus on their own leadership effectiveness, employee satisfaction and commitment can be increased, thereby increasing productivity and profitability even in difficult times.

Joe Folkman identifies 9 essential leadership behaviors that have the greatest impact on employee satisfaction and commitment, especially during turbulent times.


Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Discovering and Developing Hidden Reservoirs of Talent

By Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman, and Joyce Palevitz

Managers are the most important force driving employee engagement. We know this from analyzing our data from over one million leadership assessments. Moreover, the data suggests that the most valuable action managers can take to drive employee engagement is to provide opportunities for individual development and career growth. The

individual has a role to play as well, bringing personal motivation and a desire to grow and develop. All of this means that organizations are highly dependent upon thousands of individual development conversations happening frequently and effectively.

This white paper identifies how organizations can create reservoirs of talent by focusing development around three areas: competence, passion, and organizational need.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Unlocking The Secret Behind How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman dive deep into their analysis of what makes leaders inspiring and motivating.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Emotions at Work

By Jack Zenger

Jack Zenger outlines the need for positive emotions in the workplace and offers practical tools to help leaders make better use of their emotions.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Making Performance Appraisals an Inspiring Event

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman present a three-fold approach to increasing effectiveness of performance appraisals with 5 corresponding keys to helping employees improve.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Feedback: The Powerful Paradox

By Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman

Thought leaders, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman, expound on how to improve feedback practices to ensure the greatest benefit for the giver and the receiver.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Turning Feedback Into Change

By Joe Folkman

Thought leader, Joe Folkman describes a model consisting of three elements to help accept feedback from others and turn that feedback into change.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Coaching as a Management Style

By Jack Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett

In this excerpt from The Extraordinary Coach, thought leaders Jack Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett detail why good coaching is a successful component of any management style.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Bringing Science to the Art of Coaching

By Jack Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett

Designed to help every kind of professional coach, the authors offer some useful tips on how to make the most of every coaching session.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

Extraordinary Leader 360-degree Survey

By Joe Folkman

Joe Folkman takes a detailed look at the data behind the 360-degree survey and outlines the statistical significance of his findings.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019

The Paradox of Position and Contribution

By Jack Zenger

In this white paper, Jack Zenger offers a unique take on where leaders come from in today’s business world.

Leadership Studies — April, 2019