Inspirational Leadership and Team Performance

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Competency Corner
By James H. Killian, Ph.D.

 Introduction.  Welcome back to another round of “Competency Corner,” a series that will continue to review and expand upon the rich competency library Chally has to offer.  Specifically, we will focus on one or two competencies during each presentation and add a real-world context to them.  Experience tells me that Chally has the best and most specific competency model in the world, yet with the number of moving parts (over 140 specific competencies!) I believe it will be a useful “technical transfer” to share how these competencies can play out in real life.

Inspirational Leadership and Team Performance

Inspirational leaders are among those who can quite literally inspire other people to achieve outstanding results.  This is more than just motivational speeches or motivation by the use of “carrots or sticks.”  Truly gifted leaders have the habit of making consistently good decisions; they are viewed as experts who impact peoples’ lives on a daily basis.  In mid-July, Dr. Stephen Covey passed away due to complications from a cycling injury.  I used to poke fun of Covey before having read any of his work, because I believed it to be pop-psychology.  Admittedly, I have come to view his works as good, if for no other reason than there are kernels in everything and we can learn from anyone.  And so many have learned from Covey:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold more than 20 million copies in over 40 languages.

Covey used to say that with people “slow is fast and fast is slow,” which is so counter to the fundamental paradox that exists within leaders – in order to be successful most need to stop doing the very things that got them into a position of leadership in the first place.  It’s not fast and furious.  It’s not my way or the highway.  It’s not get it done or you’re done.  Success at the (quality) leader level comes from others’ being successful and the leader helping them to achieve that success.  Giving colleagues and direct reports more time to contribute may seem like a slower process, but it ultimately creates a culture of team, performance, and accountability.  With a leader so eager to let others contribute, but still keeping an eye on results, instills a sense of trust and respect.  But it is the two sides of this equation that must be equally leveraged – inspiring others and holding them accountable for results.

There are many components to business acumen but a few of the primary components are showcased below using Chally scales:

  • INSPIRES ACCOUNTABILITY AND TEAMWORK – Understands how to motivate others in a team setting to help them achieve top results.
  • TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR RESULTS AS AN ENTREPRENEURIAL MANAGER – Takes responsibility for being personally accountable for results even in the absence of direct or indirect control.

I threw in Takes Responsibility for Results as an Entrepreneurial Manager as a matched pair because simply giving motivating speeches does not constitute a quality inspirational leader.  There must be results and the leader must own them.  High scores on Inspires Accountability and Teamwork and low scores on Takes Responsibility can equate roughly to a lack of “walking the talk.”  The opposite is often the epitome of the cases above, where the leader is focused solely on results and does not care about the trail of bodies left behind.  Depending on the state the company is in, such as a turnaround scenario, it is entirely feasible to need a bulldozer.  But outside of acute issues, leadership longevity requires more than a big stick.

Thanks, Dr. Covey.  I do think your work helped to bring out the best in many people.

Dr. Killian currently serves as Vice President of Research & Advisory Services at Chally.  If you have any real-life examples of how Chally competencies have played out in your careers or observations and would like to share them, please email your story to him at

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