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Leadership Research and the Purification Principle

November 20, 2017

 

Welcome to my latest QuarterlyShare:


To continue my love of numbers, here is what is going on with workplace leadership according to Brandon Hall Group* research:
 

  • 55% of organizations are struggling with a talent shortage

  • 64% indicated their greatest talent challenge was attracting talent

  • Internal leadership development is a clear and continuing talent priority

  • 36% of organisations’ leadership development practices are below average or poor

  • 50% of leaders are not skilled to effectively lead their organizations today

  • 71% of leaders are not ready to lead their organizations into the future

  • 25% of organisations have a quality successor for 1 out of 10 critical leader positions


Key Findings:
 

  • Leadership requirements are infrequently defined

  • Deficit of high-quality leaders is a global concern

  • Developing leaders to be effective coaches is critical

  • Development at all leader levels is still an opportunity

  • LD spending is expected to rise
     

And for those of you who, like me, like a little academic rigour to balance out simplified stats, we need look no further than…
 
The ‘Purification Principle’: The belief that including statistical controls somehow yields more accurate results when in fact the use of control variables can produce biased estimates, inferential errors, and the omission of key data. The use of statistical controls can also make interpretation and comparison across studies more difficult, while the inclusion of a control variable may increase the likelihood of finding a significant relationship between a predictor and outcomes which doesn’t actually exist. Astonishingly, no existing leadership research gives explicit attention to the challenges of statistical control or adherence to best practice principles (check out Bernerth et al, 2017 for deeper analysis)**.
 
Of particular concern is when leadership research influences business decisions. This becomes a real possibility when an organisation relies on leadership theory to inform talent management and formulate expected leadership behaviours. 
 
I have witnessed the purification principle at play in leadership groups who make fact-based decisions through the lens of omitted data. The risk is manifold, including letting good, talented people go. The omitted data tends to come from the voices beyond the wall of yes-men and women who failed to support the opinions of their people for fear they would go the way of those good, talented people. This is not a judgement call as no one should feel obliged to be a workplace martyr. It is merely an example of where skewed data can lead to skewed outcomes.
 
As a CEO of one of our leading Australian financial businesses always reiterated: “If you want the truth, go to the window cleaners, the tellers…These are the employees who are free from business politics and thus tell the unfettered truth.” 
 
My key message is: be mindful of when you see the purification principle at play and ensure any omitted data (either by yourself or others) is not influencing decisions negatively.

 

And on another note of skirting with the truth - a big high-five to my good friend and dear colleague Matt Simon who has just published his first book 'Dancing with the Bull'. Well worth a read just for fun and also worth multiple reads when in a philosophical and reflective mood:

Here is the Prologue from Dancing with the Bull - The corporate odyssey of Luke Glass; a reluctant journeyman.

Available NOW on eBook through Amazon and iBooks. Hardcopy out in November 2017. See link for details. https://lnkd.in/gzkyhQC

"In the quieter moments, I sometimes look back to that night. The sound of the rain on the roof, the family all asleep, the dogs lying low under the kitchen table, pretending to be invisible, and, I, seated alone. The book closed in my hands, the wisdom of our youngest still ringing in my ears, and a million thoughts still running through my head. I remember walking across to the kitchen door and stopping to look back into the night.

What was out there? 

I wonder about the choices made since then. Was everything taken into account? Did it all unfold according to plan? Did I do the right thing?

Change, for me, is best described as an emotional state. You feel, you dance with change, but not everyone can see change, not everyone can understand it. Not everyone wants to join you for the ride. A truth I found hard to accept.

All I know is that I had to do something. There was no turning back. I had become tired of being played and no longer possessed the stamina to believe in the consequences of my actions. I have an unexpected, cryptic, journey to thank for that. A journey that only now resonates with me. A journey that began with a story of a boy in search if a bull and ended with a test. A test I should have taken long before that night it rained . . . Manifesto’s Test."

 

On a lighter and much more frivolous note…here is my DIVA Update:
 
I made a promise late last year. For those of you who missed it, here it is again: I am an out and proud Diva
 
or for those who just need a little reminding…
 “My big word for 2017 is DIVA. I plan to hold myself to the highest account in being big, bold and heard in a way that shakes the status quo and leads us to better outcomes.”
 
Now that we are well and truly on the 2017 home stretch I can honestly say there is more work to be done if I am to live up to my DIVA promise. I’ve been rattling the sabre in my individual coaching sessions and with leadership teams as my clients would attest:
 
“Thanks for facilitating last Friday; it was excellent!” – planning session
 
 “Maree has a unique ability to provide compassionate support, whilst cutting straight through to insightful, succinct and frank advice. I look forward to engaging her when I face my next major leadership challenge.” - coaching
 
I’ve been flouncing about with family, friends and acquaintances ensuring my best leadership work begins with me personally and extends out through others. But it is now time to up-the-anti so watch this space…
 
And just to further prove I’ve been working, not shirking, here’s some of my latest masterpieces:
 
Link to my podcast interview with Business Tree HQ
Link to my most recent blog: Feedback Frenzy
 
Or Click here to connect with me on Linkedin to see more of what I’m up to.

* State of Leadership Development 2015: Time to Act is Now, Brandon Hall Group
** Control Variables in Leadership Research, 2017: A Qualitative and Quantitative Review, Journal of Management...  J.B. Bernerth, M.S. Cole, E.C. Taylor, H J Walker

 

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