Facebook Facebook icon Twitter Twitter icon LinkedIn LinkedIn icon Email

Brain Circuits

Do you possess the 3 factors that separate great leaders from the rest? Part 2

Published 25 May 2021 in Brain Circuits • 2 min read

The operating system (OS) created by leaders is the key lever they possess to bring out the best in people, ensure work streams and projects run optimally, and set the tone for how people interact and work as a team.

We studied 50 years of research consisting of 1,000 studies, looking beyond direct reports to processes, peers and stakeholders and tested our findings with 2,500 leaders. The conclusion is there are three key factors in an effective leadership OS: trust, clarity, and momentum.

Trust includes psychological safety for people, caring, reliability and fairness. In addition to making sure your employees feel safe, you also need to pay attention to your customers in times of crisis. Zoom did a good job of this; after initially having problems in the pandemic, the CEO made public rounds and restored trust in the system.

Clarity means people have an understanding about the strategy of the business, who is accountable for what, why certain things are important, and how things should be done. It also means being clear about uncertainties. While it may be uncomfortable for some leaders to admit they don’t have the answers during a crisis, it is key they do so in a clear and direct manner.

Momentum refers to the sustained activity that comes from motivation, confidence, empowerment, and togetherness. This generates drive and can counteract cultural toxins such as stress and siloed operating.

It is important to look at the trust, clarity and momentum that currently exists in your organization and pinpoint where improvements can be made.

Ask yourself this question: what are the most difficult factors in your business context and how confident are you that your direct reports, peers and line managers would agree with your assessment?

Once you have established a high-performance OS, you will be able to ensure that good decisions made are being implemented and that success is within reach.

This is the second part of a two-part series. Part one is available here.


Shlomo Ben-Hur

Shlomo Ben-Hur

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior

Professor Shlomo Ben-Hur works on the psychological and cultural aspects of leadership, and the strategic and operational elements of talent management and corporate learning. He is the Director of IMD’s Changing Employee Behavior program and IMD’s Organizational Learning in Action, and author of the books Talent IntelligenceThe Business of Corporate Learning, Changing Employee Behavior: a Practical Guide for Managers and Leadership OS.


Learn Brain Circuits

Join us for daily exercises focusing on issues from team building to developing an actionable sustainability plan to personal development. Go on - they only take five minutes.
Read more 

Explore Leadership

What makes a great leader? Do you need charisma? How do you inspire your team? Our experts offer actionable insights through first-person narratives, behind-the-scenes interviews and The Help Desk.
Read more

Join Membership

Log in here to join in the conversation with the I by IMD community. Your subscription grants you access to the quarterly magazine plus daily articles, videos, podcasts and learning exercises.
Sign up

Log in or register to enjoy the full experience

Explore first person business intelligence from top minds curated for a global executive audience