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How NASA Builds Teams: Mission Critical Soft Skills for Scientists, Engineers, and Project Teams by Charles J. Pellerin

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CHAPTER 10
Red Story-Lines Limit Team Performance

What Matters for Leadership Effectiveness

Several years ago, I read the following by Warren Bennis (1976): “The accumulated research . . . suggests there is not one single trait or characteristic that has any value in predicting leadership potentials, none, not even intelligence.” This is interesting. If leadership effectiveness does not correlate with anything, how can we build effective team leaders? Is our quest hopeless?
Try this exercise. Write the names of great leaders that you admire on a sheet of paper. These people can be historical figures, relatives, colleagues at work and so on. It does not matter who you write, as this is only a set-up for the next step.
Next, make a list of several attributes that make (made) these people great leaders. Workshop participants generally write similar attributes, such as honest, courageous, visionary, good communicator, decisive, trustworthy, disciplined, organized, and compassionate.
Now, without a lot of thought, characterize each attribute as more about skills or more about attitudes. What do you discover? If you are like most people, you find that attitude is overwhelmingly more important.
I observe that most leadership training is about skills development. This is why people say, “Leaders are born, not made.” Leadership development that focuses on skills when leadership effectiveness is about attitudes is unlikely to succeed. So, why don’t more trainers teach attitude? I suspect ...

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