Leadership Skills Survey Analysis

Responses: important leadership qualities

Responses: important leadership qualities

On this site I have posted multiple interviews with successful and experienced everyday leaders.  These folks have had the experience of working with and leading successful teams and observing effective leaders.  They have also led their own selves through their successful careers.  This post provides a leadership skills survey analysis.

In an earlier post, I analyzed such interviews and presented some insights into leadership qualities.

My next attempt was to send out a survey targeting about 100 responses.  81 responses were received.  Many thanks for those who responded.  For those who missed out, I will send out another survey after a year or so, when I target 1000 responses.

In this post we shall see how the survey results stacked up against the interview analysis.  The idea is to narrow down a short list of leadership qualities and then set out a developmental path to build those qualities.

The following two images show the summary results for each of the two questions:

Responses: important leadership qualities

Responses: important leadership qualities

Responses: leadership deterrents

Responses: leadership deterrents

Leadership Skills Survey Analysis:


While courage and confidence was noted as one of the most important qualities of a leader, lack of confidence and fear of failure was picked as major deterrents.  These also came out as major insights (#2 and #4) in the earlier interview analyses.

Fear of failure (52 counts) was a much bigger deterrent to someone taking up leadership initiatives.  On the contrary presence of courage/confidence came a bit lower (30 counts) as perceived desirable quality in a leader.

Technical skills:

Being a knowledge expert was not seen as a major leadership quality.  While knowledge is power and technical expertise is desirable, for a leader these have lesser importance.  Lack of technical skills also was not selected as a major deterrent.

This insight compares well with insight # 1a in the interview analyses, where it was revealed that non-technical skills stood out for improvement.

The swift rotations that GE subjects its future leaders to, is a case in point.  The following text is reproduced from Victor Cheng’s blog:

By the way, this is how General Electric produces Fortune 500 CEOs. They rotate their executives into new jobs, in new industries, in new functional areas every 2 – 3 years. It drives the executives crazy because they’re never 100% competent at their new jobs. The CFO becomes head of Sales. The head of Sales in the U.S. becomes country manager for Turkey. The expert in the aviation industry now works with plastics.

I believe GE knows that knowledge expertise or technical skills are not as important for grooming future leaders as is the need for adjusting to different environments, people and challenges.


Personal qualities:

Personal qualities such as inspirational, integrity, equanimity and great communications did count.  This stacks up quite well with the interview responses as well.  As a leader, building credibility is of utmost importance.  Winning the trust of team-mates and building solid loyalty are hallmarks of effective leaders.

Fear of accountability/responsibility:

Fear of accountability/responsibility was picked as a major deterrent.  Again, this is related to failure.  If magically someone gave you a guarantee that you would not fail, you would comfortably take up the challenge.  Thus fear of accountability/responsibility is linked to fear of failure.

 An interesting observation:

I admit I noticed this only after examining the Google extracts on the survey responses.  This has something to do with the way the survey questions were listed.  There is no way of knowing which quality was selected first (there is no time stamp on the checkmarks). 

Google exports all responses into one excel cell in the order in which they are listed in the question, separated by commas.

For example, let us assume that a person selected “great communicator” as the first choice for question 1, then selected “visionary” and selected “leads by example” as the third choice.  Google still exported the three qualities into excel in the order in which they are listed in the question below.

Therefore, for 80 responses, for question 1, the quality “courage/confidence” could go into 80 slots (if every respondent selected this quality).  “Inspirational” could go into 160 slots, since it cannot be the third selection since Google will export it as either the first or second choice.  All the rest can go into 240 slots.

Leadership survey question 1

Leadership survey question 1

Similarly for question 2, “fear of failure” has 80 maximum slots it could have been put into, “lack of technical skills” has 160 and the rest have 240. 


Leadership survey question 2

Leadership survey question 2

In this context, for question 1, “courage/confidence” was selected 30 times.  That is, it scored 30/80 = 37% for the first question.

In contrast, “fear of failure” scored 52/80, i.e. 64% for question 2.

Similarly, knowledge expert (8/240, 3.3%) and lack of technical skills (19/160, 11.9%) scored much lower.


In conclusion, the survey reveals the following:

  1. People look up to leaders that display courage and confidence.
  2. To become an effective leader and take up challenging initiatives, one must overcome fear of failure and fear of being accountable.
  3. A certain mix of personal qualities such as staying calm under pressure, ability to inspire people, leading by example, working comfortably with people and being a good communicator are essential qualities of effective leaders
  4. You do not need to be a knowledge expert.  While knowledge is (still) power, in corporate parlance, such skill sets can be purchased.

Image: (c) Google summary results on survey conducted by Kay Leadership Academy