Have you seen ‘mistaken’ leadership appointments or promotions where people who appeared to have leadership potential did not turn out to be the best leaders?

On the flipside, have you seen people with great leadership capabilities or potential being overlooked, perhaps because they are not as visible or do not fit the ‘prototype’ of who looks, sounds or feels leader-like?

If either or both of these scenarios are happening in your organisation, then there is a gap between Leadership Emergence and Leadership Effectiveness. and an opportunity exists to enhance your organisation’s leadership effectiveness and diversity in leadership.

A recent article by Hogan, Leadership emergence vs. leadership effectiveness, defined these two terms.

Leadership emergence: Emergent leaders get into leadership positions. They belong to the C-suite, or they hold board positions. They climb the corporate ladder, so to speak.

Leadership effectiveness: Effective leaders build high-performing teams. They can create and maintain a team that produces results. An effective leader is judged by the success of the team’s accomplishments.

Leadership emergence is NOT the same as Leadership effectiveness.

The article highlights that personality predicts leadership emergence well, including high emotional stability, high extraversion, high openness to experience, and high conscientiousness from the Big 5 personality traits. This is supported by other studies such the Babble hypothesis of leadership, which finds that people who speak more are more likely to be viewed as leaders. This appears to occur regardless of the intelligence or personality traits of group members.

This means the ‘missed appointments’ would include people who may come across as anxious or not appear confident, possibly reserved, quiet and less direct. Some may prefer routines and processes.

However, personality is only weakly related to leadership effectiveness, according to Ryne Sherman, PhD, Chief Science Officer at Hogan Assessment Systems and cohost of the podcast, The Science of Personality.

When it comes to leadership effectiveness, their research suggests that adaptability is more important than having specific personality characteristics. This means that there are effective leaders of all types, but only some of them emerge and are appointed into leadership positions while others who could be your best leaders are ‘missed’.

The leadership effectiveness gap

This explains some of the ineffective leadership that we see shown in studies such as one by Gallup, which shared in the article, Why great managers are so rare, which found that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. That would indicate only 18% in the overlap, ‘good appointments’.

Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Psychologist and Author of ‘Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders (And How to Fix It)’, also explains this issue in the book:

“Traits like overconfidence and self-absorption should be seen as red flags. But instead, they prompt us to say, “Ah, there’s a charismatic fellow! He’s probably leadership material”. The result in both business and politics is a surplus of incompetent men in charge, and this surplus reduces opportunities for competent people – women and men – while keeping the standards of leadership depressingly low.”

He also refers to meta-analyses that indicate that there is only a 9% overlap between confidence and competence. So the assumption that someone appearing confident is also competent is contributing further to the leadership emergence vs effectiveness gap.

This leadership emergence vs effectiveness gap also explains part of the slow progress in diversity in leadership (as indicated by countless studies), since:

  • Marginalised groups, especially women (with additional barriers with intersectionalities), tend not to come across as confident as men, due to conditioning and societal expectations of gendered behaviours.
  • Studies show that men generally speak more than women in meetings.
  • Marginalised groups, especially women, tend to receive feedback such as the need for confidence and executive presence to get promoted, even when they are competent.
  • Marginalised groups tend to experience internalised marginalisation (internalised messages of being less than) that diminishes their confidence.

The opportunity to enhance leadership effectiveness and diversity in leadership

If this leadership emergence and effectiveness gap exists in your organisation, it’s actually an opportunity to take a different approach to enhance leadership effectiveness and diversity in leadership. The gap can be closed by not only working on leadership development and diversity and inclusion initiatives, but rethinking who and what traits/behaviours we consider to be leader-like and how leaders are selected so that the emergent leader profile is closer to those who are effective.

It’s an opportunity to spot and develop your hidden talent, whom you already have in your organisation.

Is this possible? I remain optimistic.

My recent keynote presentations on the topics of “Quietly Powerful Leadership” and “Spotting and Developing Hidden Talent in Organisations” have generated a lot of questions, discussion and reflection. It felt to me like people’s minds were ticking around how they might look for future leaders, with a greater awareness of the biases around style that they are now aware of.

One of my longer-term organisational clients working with the Quietly Powerful Program has achieved excellent progress with their quieter talent being developed in a way that harnesses their quiet leadership strengths, including:

  • 100% of the participants have been retained.
  • 30% have been promoted (double this percentage if you look only at the first cohort).
  • It has been reported that quieter people are feeling more valued, even people who have not participated in the program!

I believe that we can make progress in enhancing leadership effectiveness and diversity in leadership by working with the organisational system, the individuals who may be in the ‘missed appointments’ segment, and their leaders.

In your organisation, what percentage of appointments are ‘good appointments’, that is, where leadership emergence overlaps with effectiveness? What does this percentage need to be? Is your organisation consciously addressing the gap?

Written by Megumi Miki, with Anna Reeve and Leigh Gassner, co-founders of Leaders who Listen. We aim to develop leaders who create a listening environment of safety and space within their organisations to enable better decision making, drive growth and innovation, enhance collaboration and inclusion, and manage risk. If you’d like to understand how your leadership team can engage in productive disagreements, contact us about our Leaders who Listen assessment tools, presentations, masterclasses and development programs.