Their groundbreaking studies, commenced in 1983 with the driver that they wanted to find out what people did when they were at their "personal best" in leading others - i.e. to identify the characteristics of good leadership.
They devised a leadership characteristics survey consisting of thirty-eight open-ended questions designed to capture "Personal Best" stories of peak leadership experience.
The research was conducted over 15 years with 75,000 people, on a worldwide basis and included middle and senior level managers in private and public sector organisations, community leaders, student leaders, church leaders, government leaders, and hundreds of others in non-managerial positions.
The last study was conducted in 2002 and the prioritised list of leadership characteristics is as follows
It is interesting to note that these figures have remained largely consistent over the full 15 years of research.
The results of this research and subsequent analysis of leadership characteristics has led them to defining what they call: "The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership".
In summary they found that despite differences in the circumstances and details of people's individual stories, their "personal-best" leadership experiences revealed recurring and similar patterns of behaviour in their descriptions of the characteristics of good leadership.
(1) Showing the Way
Leaders define and establish principles about the way people should be treated and the way goals should be pursued.
Leaders set the benchmark by creating standards of excellence and then demonstrate these standards in their own behaviour and thus estabishing an example for others to follow.
They recognise that people can become overwhelmed by largescale, complex and/or long-term goals, and so they set interim objectives that encourage easier "early wins".
Leaders also untangle unnecessary bureaucracy and give their people clear unambiguous pointers to successfully achieving goals.
They create the environment in which people can succeed.
(2) Creating a Shared Vision
Leaders passionately have a clear and passsionately held vision of what the changed organisation can become.
They have the skills and energy to enthuse and inspire people to share that vision, and also to see and get excited about the future possibilities.