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KLI Leadership Research Bits

Posted May 5, 2015 in News

By Grace Lee ‘18

“Consistent with the other research institutes at CMC, KLI conducts high-level academic research, through faculty-student partnerships.  Faculty and students together co-author research articles, book chapters, and make presentations at professional research conferences.” – Ron Riggio, Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, Associate Dean of the Faculty, Kravis Leadership Institute Director 1996-2010


Soft Skills in Leadership
Research by Ron Riggio, Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, Associate Dean of the Faculty
Sherylle Tan, Director of Internships and KLI Research

Dr. Riggio, Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, and Dr. Tan, Director of Internships and KLI Research at the Kravis Leadership Institute, have conducted extensive research regarding soft skills in leadership. Dr. Riggio explains, “When we talk about the ‘soft skills’ of leadership, we mean the interpersonal, emotional, persuasion, and political skills that leaders use to communicate to help teams and organizations achieve goals.” They have invited top scholars to share their research and strategies for developing these soft skills at work.  These became the chapters in their book, entitled, “”Leader Interpersonal and Influence Skills: The Soft Skills of Leadership.”

Lessons from Leader Interpersonal and Influence Skills: The Soft Skills of Leadership:

Develop Emotional Competencies. First and foremost, many experts emphasized the importance of emotional skills and competencies (often referred to as “emotional intelligence“) in the workplace. However, a great deal of emphasis was placed on using emotions appropriately. For example, it is important to be positive and upbeat as a manager or leader in order to motivate, but it needs to be realistic (not be an over-the-top cheerleader).

More important is the appropriate display of negative emotions. It is ok to show displeasure, disappointment, and even carefully controlled anger in the workplace, but the key is to turn these negative emotions into positive outcomes. For example, leaders are more effective if they convey their disappointment over a team or member’s poor performance, but couple it with the message that “I know you can do better.”

Develop Political Skill. Although the word “politics” suggests the sort of dirty politics that we all hate, it is important to be strategic and tactful in your behavior at work. Political skill involves using reciprocity effectively, for example, helping a coworker out, but being clear that help is expected in return.

Regardless of where you work, it is important to figure out the “rules” by which the game is played and how to navigate around political barriers (and the negative political “animals” that reside in your workplace).

Dr. Riggio and Dr. Tan argue in the book that what many people call the “soft skills” are really the “hard skills” in that they are very hard to measure and to develop.  You can’t learn soft skills effectively from a book or a lecture.  They are gained through experience and hard developmental work.

Undergraduate Leadership Education – A Longitudinal Study
Research by Ron Riggio, Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, Associate Dean of the Faculty
Sherylle Tan, Director of Internships and KLI Research

In 2006, in an effort to identity factors that influence student future success, the Kravis Leadership Institute (KLI) began the Undergraduate Leadership Education (ULE) project. The quasi-experimental longitudinal ULE study surveys undergraduate students from the time of their college applications through their adult years post-graduation. The goal of the study is to determine which college-year experiences lead to the later development of leadership, and to examine the effectiveness and impact of undergraduate leadership education programs on student leaders’ positive leadership outcomes. Participants include applicants who enroll as CMC as students as well all individuals who did not enroll at CMC across multiple time points.

What have we observed so far?

The ULE project began in 2006 and is now going on its 11th year of data collection. More than 13,000 participants have been surveyed as applicants. Over, the past several years, a number of CMC students and KLI faculty and staff have been involved in the ULE study. Several outcomes have resulted from this project:

  • Data from the ULE study have been used to validate a new measure of leader developmental efficacy. Leader developmental efficacy refers one’s belief in his or her ability to develop leadership knowledge and skills (Reichard, Walker, Putter, Middleton, & Johnson, submitted for publication)
  • In a cross-section of CMC seniors Classes of 2009, 2010, and 2011, students who took at least 1 leadership course at CMC had significantly higher leadership self-efficacy, leader developmental self-efficacy (self-efficacy can be thought of as confidence in ability to do something), optimism, and social normative motivation to lead. In addition, leadership education students demonstrated higher levels of positive and effective leadership. (Tan, Porter, Teevens, & Beckett, 2012)
  • In a sample of applicants, we observed that students’ level of pre-college activity had a small yet statistically significant positive relationship with levels of social skills (social expressivity and social control), motivation to lead, leadership self-efficacy, and developmental self-efficacy. (Dang, 2012)
  • The data suggests that there is a positive relationship between social expressiveness and both leader self-efficacy and psychological capital. In addition, social control was positively related to their motivation to lead.  However, results suggest that that there no significant change in social control or social expressivity between their first and last years of college. (Milad, Ono, Miguel, & Dulay, 2012)

Global Leadership Development
Research by Jay Conger, KLI Institute Chair

Dr. Conger, Chair of the Kravis Leadership Institute, has identified the problem that many organizations are struggling with a critical shortage of global leadership talent. The shortfall exists largely due to organizational barriers and poorly aligned talent management systems. Underpinning these problems is the lack of appreciation for the unique demands of developing global leadership talent.  For example, senior organizational leaders often perceive that there is little difference between domestic or home country leadership talent. As a result, most organizations have not invested in the necessary and unique infrastructure to build deep bench strength in global leadership talent.

Unique talent management processes are necessary for developing global leadership. For example, these processes must support ‘two way mobility’ in contrast to the common dilemma where leadership talent sent overseas has a hard time returning to their home country or to the corporate center.  An organization’s culture and rewards must reinforce not only the importance of global assignments but place a premium on them. Assignments, training, capability frameworks and assessments are all vital interventions that must be customized to cultivate and support global leadership talent.  Most importantly, the research on global leadership talent strongly suggests that the process of building a deep bench of such talent requires an unrelenting commitment of at least seven or more years on the part of a large corporation. That commitment has to start at the senior ranks of an organization and must be supported overtime by the rigorous and integrated talent management practices that are described in this article.

Social Entrepreneurship in Economic Development
Research by Sarah Smith Orr, KLI Executive Director

Sarah Smith Orr, Executive Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute, has written about her research regarding social entrepreneurship in a chapter of a larger publication, titled “The Role of the Social Entrepreneurship in Economic Development: Tackling the World’s Toughest Problems through Innovation.” Across the globe, examples of innovative and alternative approaches abound for dealing with societal, economical, and environmental problems.  Social entrepreneurs, women and men, are leading social change through a business enterprise model, in the United States and around the world. We recognize them as change agents for society; in the current era, they are working with and through cross-sector partnerships with governments, local communities, businesses, multi-national companies, and individuals within communities to achieve sustainable impact.  This chapter explores the evolution of social entrepreneurship, frameworks and models illustrating the scope as well as the boundaries of social entrepreneurship. It profiles social entrepreneurs and their work through social enterprises.  It concludes by examining the work of the social entrepreneur through a leadership lens of connectivity.