In the second half of 2019, my team and I invested over 250 hours running an in-depth study of 190 business leaders from around the world. We dug into the simple question of what’s holding people back from being a more successful and effective leader.

We’ve just sorted through all the data and I’m sharing it here for the first time.

(*Note: a majority of respondents were from the US and UK. It also spanned a wide range of industries, though I estimate 60% were from either the technology industry or tech field)

This consisted of a survey and one-on-one individual interviews, as we wanted to make sure we understood not only where they were stuck, but why, and how to overcome it.

The #1 thing holding leader back among all participants (and surprisingly #2 among business owners) is Confidence. This shows up as imposter syndrome, people not believing in themselves, and not being assertive.

Excerpts from the written part of the survey in this area include;

  • Feeling out of my depth
  • Assertiveness, getting my point across
  • Growing my personal belief
  • Can be too self conscious
  • Confidence in my abilities to fulfill my role
  • Sometimes I lack the courage to get out of comfort zone
  • Being an authentic leader whilst feeling like an imposter at times
  • Leading credibly in a tech world I don’t always understand with people far more experienced
  • Basically I have either lost my mojo or never had it!
  • Massive self doubt in my performance
  • No confidence in day to day interactions with senior managers
  • Feeling like a fraud that will be found out
  • How to be assertive and not be Mr Nice
  • I need more confidence and I am tried of playing it safe

The #2 area that is a problem for leaders (and #1 among biz owners) is Team Performance. This can take the form of lack of accountability, a poor culture, and the team lacking motivation, inspiration & engagement.

Excerpts include;

  • Getting Stuff Done
  • Activating a team to focus more energy and time on success
  • FOCUS, productivity & Prioritization of team
  • Not accountable, lacking culture
  • Sometimes it’s hard to get people on board with what I’d like to see happen
  • Have always struggled with holding people effectively to account
  • Would like to know how I can motivate the team

The #3 area is Being more Strategic. I don’t just mean strategic planning; people want to see the bigger picture; work ON the business, instead of working IN it; think and act strategically even in day-to-day-situations; and be involved in strategic, high-level meetings where they add meaningful contribution.

Leaders are also looking to be Influential and Respected, which comes in at #4. They feel that people don’t see them as a leader, and they aren’t invited to those high-level meetings. Their team may look at them as a boss, but not the powerful leader they crave to be.

Delegation (#5 / #3 among biz owners) is something that still plagues many people. They often know what they want to do strategically, though for a variety of reasons, they have operational and tactical duties that keep them from those other tasks.

Many leaders want to Coach and Empower their Team, though they simply don’t have the skills to have been taught to do that.

What we also learned through the interviews is that the biggest frustration for leaders (in almost every single instance) is that they desperately want to do a good job for their team, their company, and themselves.

They feel a huge sense of responsibility and they are letting people down. They want to help people, empower people, and make an impact. Very few, if any, were just focused on the money aspect.

To me, it’s really important to give leaders that want to do good in this world the tools to do that.

That’s why my team and I have taken the results from this study, along with our own experience of leading teams and companies and mixed that with what we’ve learned from teaching leaders at organizations like Microsoft, Uber, YPO, and Stanford University, and come up with what we’re calling the Leadership Impact Formula.

It addresses all the top issues using a combination of emotional intelligence, psychology, and neuroscience, and we’ve wrapped everything up into a series of practical, immediately relevant tools, skills, and habits to teach leaders to have a greater impact in their company and the world.

It all starts with Mindset. Leaders need that confidence and resilience, because leadership is about taking risks. You won’t be able to scale a company or grow a team without big doses of both of those.

You need to teach yourself to become strategic in all areas and have the mindfulness to connect to others while being kind and compassionate to yourself.

Leaders need to be clear in their Guiding Principles – not just for yourself, but for your team and anyone else who may want to invest or do business with you. The more clear you can get in these, the easier growth gets, because you’re surrounded by like-minded people.

And while being of service (i.e. focusing on delivering value and helping others) isn’t necessary to make a lot of money and be short-term successful, I believe that it’s the duty for us as leaders to really do good in the world.

Building a high-performing team, i.e. Team Leadership, consists of having the right people focused on the right things.

It’s amazing that once you get the right culture in place, your team will actually hold each other accountable. Until then it’s up to you to set the tone and hold people accountable in an uplifting, empowering way.

When you have any two of these aspects in place, it provides positive results.

When you have the confidence and presence of a leader, and are clear in your vision, you get rabid loyalty and a motivated, inspired team.

With a strong purpose and an accountable team, your culture will start to form, and you’ll get the engaged workforce that you’ve been looking for.

And when you coach and empower people, and when you show up strategically and powerfully, people will respect you as a leader and you’ll have great performance.

Of course, when you have all three aspects dialed in, that’s when you make a real impact. You will start to have wide-ranging influence, and success in all areas will follow.

What do you see out there? Does your experience match what we’ve found and I’ve shown here?

Interested in more? If you have a group of leaders that would get value from both the study results and how to implement the Leadership Impact Formula into their own lives, you can see if I’m available for a keynote speech, company workshop, or if it’s for you personally, to join an upcoming mastermind.

Click Here to contact me.

R. Michael Anderson is a 3x Software Entrepreneur from California who later went on to earn a master’s in psychology. He now is an investor, advisor, and mentor and works with leaders at firms such as PWC, SAP, and Salesforce.