Magazine News Blogger

Fall 2009

CEO says leaders need not be perfect to be effective

Research shows that leaders need not excel in every area, but they should seek feedback and develop strengths in several key areas to be successful.

Jack Zenger (Photo by Steve Eaton)

Jack Zenger, the CEO of Zenger Folkman, spoke at a Dean’s Convocation in February 2009, shared his research-based insight on leadership and answered questions from students. Zenger is the author of seven books, including the best seller: The Extraordinary leader. He has published 50 journal articles and has been inducted into the Human Resource Development Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to leadership development, theory and practice. Zenger Folkman is an “organization that is focused on bringing empirical research, innovative thinking and new technology to the challenge of developing more effective leaders.”

“Leaders are not defined by the fact that they’re perfect - they have no warts, no blemishes, no faults, nothing wrong with them,” Zenger said. “You don’t find people like that. What great leaders are defined by is that they have a small number of strengths and that they’re really good at a few things.”

Zenger talked about research that drew from a data base of about 200,000, 360-degree evaluation forms filled out for 20,000 managers to see what they could learn about leadership.

They discovered that “leadership and the quality of the leader’s behavior, impacts virtually everything inside an organization,” Zenger said. “Name any important dimension of the effectiveness of an organization and you see empirically that there is a strong connection between the quality of its leadership and that outcome.”