Centered leadership: Not for women only.

November 16th, 2012

A record number of women were elected to the U.S. Congress last week. You know that, of course, but I like repeating the fact as often as I can. It speaks loudly to the benefits of gender diversity in leadership. And it reminds me of a groundbreaking model for leadership developed almost a decade ago by Director Joanna Barsh and her colleagues at global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

What began in 2004 as the McKinsey Leadership Project – a study of what drives and sustains successful female leaders – identified a set of five capabilities that generated high levels of professional performance and life satisfaction. Barsh and her team used these interrelated potentialities to comprise their model of “centered leadership.” And their continued research confirmed that the model is equally useful to all leaders, not just women.

Here’s how they described the five capabilities of centered leadership in Sept. 2008:

Meaning: Finding your strengths and putting them to work in the service of an inspiring purpose;

 Managing energy: knowing where your energy comes from, where it goes, and what you can do to manage it;

Positive framing: adopting a more constructive way to view your world, expand your horizons, and gain the resilience to move ahead even when bad things happen;

 Connecting: Identifying who can help you grow, building stronger relationships, and increasing your sense of belonging; and

Engaging: finding your voice, becoming self-reliant and confident by accepting opportunities and the inherent risks they bring, and collaborating with others.

An Oct. 2010 McKinsey Quarterly piece validated the power of these ideas. After a worldwide survey of executives, Barsh and team found that a leader who had mastered even one of the above skills was twice as likely as those who mastered none to believe s/he could lead through change.

How do you rate yourself on each? How might your team rate you? Is there an attribute you’d like to enhance?


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