Results-Based Leadership

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Leadership is not only characterized by attributes, but also by results. Explanation of Results-based Leadership of Ulrich, Zenger and Smallwood. ('99)


Dave Ulrich of the University of Michigan and consultants Jack Zenger and Norm Smallwood argue that it is not enough to gauge leaders by personal traits such as character, style, and values. It is a mistake to focus on leadership attributes that managers bring to the office. Attributes such as analytic thinking, working with ambiguity, and personal integrity. Rather, effective leaders know how to connect these leadership attributes with leadership results.


In their book Results-Based Leadership, Ulrich, Zenger, and Smallwood move us from thinking primarily about the inputs of leadership towards stressing the outcomes of leadership. The challenge in a strategic Human Resource Management approach is to build leaders throughout the organization that focus on both attributes and results. To this end, the authors recommend that managers model what they want. By continually asking what is required for achieving results. And by repeatedly telling stories about getting results.


The Results-Based Leadership formula:

"Effective Leadership  =  Attributes   x   Results."


Note that the equation suggests that leaders must strive to achieve excellence in both terms; that is, they must both demonstrate attributes and achieve results. Each part of the equation multiplies the other part; they are not cumulative. A score of 9 out of 10 in attributes, for example, multiplied by a score of 2 out of 10 on results, yields an effectiveness rating of only 18 out of 100, not 11 out of 20.


Four criteria for judging whether a manager is focused to achieve results (Ulrich)

  1. Balanced. Results balance the major dimensions of the organization (employees, organization, customers, investors). None of the dimensions is ignored.
  2. Strategic. Results strongly link to the strategy of the firm and to its competitive position.
  3. Lasting. Results conform to both short-term and long-term goals.
  4. Selfless. Results support the whole enterprise and transcend the manager's personal gain.

Managers should actually deliver results in four areas:

  1. For employees;
  2. For the organization, 
  3. For its customers, and
  4. For its investors.

Each area requires its own metrics. For employees, it is developing their human capital and commitment. For customers, providing the value they want. For investors, to reduce the costs and to let the business grow. And for the organization, to create a learning and innovative instinct.


In their 2003 book: Why the Bottom Line Isn't!, Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood argue, like Baruch Lev did earlier on, that sustainable shareholder value comes increasingly from assets that are not accounted for on an organization's balance sheet. These assets include: a company's reputation, its ability to attract talent, and its ability to react quickly to new opportunities in the marketplace.


Book: Dave Ulrich, Zenger, and Smallwood - Results-Based Leadership -

Book: Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood - Why the Bottom Line Isn't! -


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Compare with Results-Based Leadership:  Leadership Styles  |  Level 5 Leadership  |  Hagberg Model of Personal Power  |  Value Based Management  |  Performance Management  |  Leadership Continuum  |  Path-Goal Theory  |  Contingency Theory  |  Competing Values Framework  |  Result Oriented Management  |  Seven Surprises  |  Seven Habits  |  SMART  |  Situational Leadership  |  Charismatic Leadership


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