Integrity and the C-Suite

rba1_34New research from the Center for Creative Leadership suggests that integrity, bravery and social intelligence are important predictors of performance for top-level executives. The research, including a poll of 246 middle managers and 191 top executives along with an analysis of feedback data from direct reports, bosses and board members, found a positive relationship between the direct report ratings of leaders’ character strengths and the boss/board member ratings of performance; the more integrity, bravery, perspective and social intelligence leaders have, the higher their performance ratings.

The research also uncovered a disconnect between C-suite executives’ perception of their own integrity vs. that perceived by their direct reports. It found that top executives tended to overrate their integrity in comparison to ratings provided by their direct reports. Meanwhile, middle managers’ ratings of their own integrity tended to hew much closer to the ratings provided by their direct reports.

For top executives, integrity was the biggest predictor of performance, accounting for just more than one-third (34 percent) of the total variance explained by all four character strengths, followed by bravery (33 percent) and social intelligence (23 percent).

Ambitious middle managers may want to focus on their own integrity and bravery: Although integrity and bravery best predict performance of top executives, social intelligence is the most important performance predictor for middle managers. In other words, the characteristic that most helped middle managers succeed in their current positions may not be enough to help them at the executive-level.

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