Do you find it as interesting as I do how the same research can be interpreted differently?

Last Fall, McKinsey reported the results of survey on individual leadership style and what styles work best in a crisis.

“The kinds of leadership behaviour that executives say will most help their companies through the current crisis, such as inspiring others and defining expectations and rewards, are the same ones they say will help their companies thrive in the future. The executives’ assessment of what’s needed for the long term hasn’t changed over the past year. … When asked which capabilities of organisations as a whole are most important for managing companies through the crisis, respondents choose two more often than any others: leadership, so that leaders inspire others and shape their actions, and direction, so that it’s clear where companies are going and that people are aligned on how to get there. Respondents also say those two capabilities have become more important since the crisis began.”

John Baldoni in Harvard Business’ Leadership at Work blog spins the results for viewing in the negative:

“A majority of managers just don’t understand what it means to be a leader. That’s a conclusion that I draw from a recent global survey by McKinsey and Company about what it takes to manage corporate performance. Only 48% of managers surveyed believed that they need to inspire and only 46% believed it was their responsibility to provide direction during this crisis. The numbers for inspiration and direction actually drop to 45% and 39% respectively when considered as behaviours for how to manage post-crisis. More troubling, only 30% of managers felt that they needed to motivate their employees during the crisis and just 23% did post-crisis.”

How’d you read the above? “Only 48% believe they need to inspire?” or that leadership and direction are chosen most often as the most important. I’m particularly troubled by Baldoni’s assertion that “only 30% of managers felt they needed to motivate employees…”

That’s not what the research says. The research asked respondents to rank “most important.” Of course, I believe motivating employees is important, but I also believe motivation is a strong element of leadership and direction and not easily separated.

What’s my point? Be careful in how you read research. What’s your take-away from the above two reports.

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