“Better leaders, better world.” It’s a mantra we live by at Korn Ferry. “Stronger organizations, stronger society.” Our Drucker Institute partners are also dedicated to having a profound impact. Recent research done in collaboration sought to answer a key question: What leadership qualities drive organizational health and success in the long-term?

We know, from Korn Ferry Institute’s research on organizational transformation, that the difference in financial performance is strongly associated with how much people trust senior leaders in that company. In fact, 25% of the difference in financial performance over a 5-year period was related to trust in leadership.

For long-term health, companies can take stock of the leadership qualities they need and the ones they have, then begin work on closing the gap. And now, based on a new Korn Ferry study conducted with the Drucker Institute, a clear picture of what makes an effective leader is taking shape. This latest research shows a consistent set of leadership traits, drivers, and competencies among companies that score highest on the Drucker Institute’s annual ranking of corporate effectiveness. The top of those rankings are the basis of the Management Top 250 list, produced in partnership with the Wall Street Journal.

“We’re seeing a leadership profile emerge—the qualities most present in senior executives at the most effective companies,” says Evelyn Orr, vice president and chief operating officer of the Korn Ferry Institute. Having to interpret vague or contradictory signals and being forced to continuously transform a business “would overwhelm or exhaust a lot of people,” Orr adds. “But it energizes others. These leaders have a fearlessness,” she says.

By design, the Drucker 5-dimension model for evaluating organizational effectiveness includes, but is not limited to, financial performance. It also assesses customer satisfaction, employee engagement and development, innovation, and social responsibility. Taking a long and holistic view like this is increasingly a priority for CEOs and boards, even as they address crises at hand. “While the market has mastered the art of assessing short-term financial performance, long-term success is built on effective management--a factor that is more difficult to measure,” says Zachary First, executive director at the Drucker Institute. Notably, the top 50 companies ranked by the Drucker Institute consistently outperform the S&P 500, even in the recent downturn.

“We know the specific leadership qualities that are present among leaders of the most highly effective organizations, as ranked by Drucker Institute,” says Orr. “Boards and leadership teams can take the guess work out of what they need to look for and develop among leaders who will navigate their organizations toward long-term success.”

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