“Whether through malice or naiveté, those who trivialize leadership place us all at risk. Leadership Matters.” ~ Mike Myatt Hacking Leadership


It has certainly been interesting as of late, with leaders and the practice of leadership receiving more scrutiny than any other time in recent history. There seems to be no shortage of data pointing to the current “leadership crisis,” from surveys on confidence, trust, hope, and optimism, and the frequently discussed issue of employee engagement. With little to no improvement, the leadership conversation now includes theories and practices such as distributed leadership, holocracy management, and leaderless environments. And while the jury is still out on many of the new models, I strongly believe that as work transforms, leadership still matters.

There are few people I respect more on the subject of leadership than Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. With a combined 95 years of experience, their research and findings are always very thorough, yet practical. In the 5th edition of their seminal book, The Leadership Challenge, the authors write; “Change is the province of leaders. It is the work of leaders to inspire people to do things differently, to struggle against uncertain odds, and to persevere toward a misty image of a better future. Without leadership there would not be the extraordinary efforts necessary to solve existing problems and realize unimagined opportunities. We have today, at best, only faint clues of what the future may hold, but we are confident that without leadership the possibilities will neither be envisioned nor attained.” Personally I couldn’t agree more with Jim and Barry’s point of view and have included some additional research and findings below on the leadership imperative.

Leadership and Engagement

In 2015, culture and engagement emerged as the most important issues that companies are facing around the world. And in the context of leadership, Gallup reported last spring that leaders account for as much as 70% of variance in employee engagement scores. Similarly, in Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism, Dr. Leslie Gains Ross, Chief Reputation Officer from Weber Shandwick wrote, “Our research proves that leadership has a catalytic impact on employee engagement and willingness to be an ardent employer supporter.” The message here is very clear, in the new world of work, culture and engagement are considered critical to the success of organizations globally; and both are built in the shadow of the leader.

Leadership and Climate

In Primal Leadership, authors Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee wrote, “Climate, or how people feel about working at a company, can account for 20 to 30% of business performance; and roughly 50 to 70% of how associates perceive the company’s climate, can be attributed to one person, the leader.” Our friends at The Hay Group have a similar position on the subject when they say, “Organizational climate is the closest thing to a profit-and-loss statement of how well a company manages its people.” And much like Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee, Hay attributes the variance in climate to those at the top. In short, leadership drives climate, and climate drives performance.

Leadership and Financial Performance

Yes, money still matters. So much so that, in the future of work, companies that do good (make a difference) and do well (achieve performance excellence) are those that will reap societies richest rewards. The rewards, financial and non-financial, will be a result of creating extraordinary workplaces where employees themselves can make a difference, while making a living.  And it probably comes as no surprise that financial performance can be linked to leadership. This may be best stated in Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report where they write, “The bottom line? Leader quality helps predict financial performance. Organizations with both high levels of leadership quality and leader engagement/retention, were 9 times more likely to outperform their peers financially.”

As a leadership guy, maybe I’m biased about the impact a good leader can have on those around them, and the organization as a whole. That being said, the hard research is quite compelling. I simply cannot imagine a time where leadership won’t matter or as Jim and Barry put it, “Leadership is not a fad, and the leadership challenge never goes away.”


Mark Fernandes

Mark Fernandes

Having a passion for inspiring people to believe in themselves and become everything they are capable of becoming, Mark works with individuals and organizations to inspire transformation. @MarkSFernandes

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