Four great reads on CEO performance, team effectiveness at Google and the failure of the MBTI

I’ve been fascinated with leadership and organizational performance and have been impressed with the quality of research that has emerged in the past few years. Even more impressive are the companies that are taking action on the research and/or being transparent about their own findings (see Google’s impressive initiative here). Over the past few weeks, I’ve come across some exciting research. Check it out and let me know what you think?

  1. Humble leaders are more effective — this should seem obvious, but some interesting research on how leaders that underrate themselves are much more likely to be rated as highly effective by their peers and to perform at higher levels
  2. Google identified that the #1 factor for group performance was “psychological safety”: Creating a safe environment to take risks and “fail” was the most important (and by a wide margin) factor for predicting highly effective teams at google. My incredible personal experience at McKinsey & Company backs up this finding. One of the cultural values is to uphold the obligation to dissent. I experienced the power of this quickly after joining when a Senior Partner asked me what I thought about a major project (and really cared what I thought). I found it a bit shocking and even a little scary, but being part of this incredible and ultimately one of the fastest periods of my professional development.
  3. CEO Performance is still very hard to evaluate: For now, it seems luck plays a larger part than most people would like. While it may be easier to spot a clearly bad CEO (at least behaviorally), identifying CEO’s that are clearly driving a company’s performance is daunting. The linked article points out that in the best case, it is only possible to give CEO’s credit for between 2% and 22% of a companies performance, depending on the industry. There are just too many things that are outside the control of a CEO (such as macro conditions, business cycles, etc…) P.S. For a longer read on the challenges of tying company performance to individuals or initiatives, check out the Halo Effect
  4. The MBTI should not be trusted: Wait, what? This kind of came as a shock to me. First I started with this post from Adam Grant and ended up spending the next 30 minutes in an stunned haze of new information (ending up here, here, here, here, here and here) Here’s what I learned:
  • There is a 50% chance you will get a different type even after only five weeks between testing periods (not a reliable test)
  • Systematic reviews have not been able to reliably link individual MBTI types to managerial performance
  • Either-or dimensions are misleading. For example, most people are ambiverts (able to bounce between extraversion and introversion). The thinking-feeling dimension is also very misleading — these two dimensions are independent and shouldn’t be seen as opposites. In fact, higher cognitive performance has been linked with higher emotional intelligence.
  • Models like the Five Factor Model are great alternatives that can adequately predict job performance. Two factors, conscientiousness andemotional stability are reliable predictors of job performance

Does this MBTI research shock you?

Do you know how to evaluate CEO performance?

Have you ever been on a team with high psychological safety — what was it like?

About Paul Millerd

Paul is a writer, creator, and curious human that is passionate about how people can reimagine their relationship with work to do things that matter. He published The Pathless Path in 2022.