The Leadership Balancing Act – Results-Oriented vs. People-Oriented

A high performing leader tackles his to-do list with urgency, yet also builds and maintains relationships across the organization that optimize collaboration. Tasks and relationships; for true high performance, you can’t have one without the other. Your role as a leader is to find the perfect balance between the two.

A strong capability in focusing on tasks and results helps you and your team accomplish tactical work such as achieving goals, solving analytical problems, project planning, creating innovations, maintaining productivity, and making fast decisions.

But much of today’s work is not done by individuals and does not happen in silos, so relationship-oriented skills that create a collaborative atmosphere, such as solving interpersonal conflict, keeping team members engaged, fostering teamwork, and maintaining a trustworthy environment are also critical.

We know this intuitively, and studies confirm it:

  • Results-oriented leaders are rated as good leaders ~14% of the time
  • People-oriented leaders are rated as good leaders ~12% of the time
  • Leaders with both strong analytical and social skills are rated as good leaders ~72% of the time

In addition to becoming capable in both skills and finding a good balance between the two, you must also figure out how to not let one get in the way of the other.

Ninety-nine percent of leaders cannot. Less than 1% of leaders are actually rated high on both results focus and social skills.

In a recent HBR blog article that cites the studies where these numbers originate, Should Leaders Focus on Results, or on People?, Matthew Lieberman writes, “our brains have made it difficult to be both socially and analytically focused at the same time.” He explains that there are two separate networks in the brain responsible for each function, and they work like a seesaw. When we are focused on results, we display less caring toward people and interpersonal issues.

The 1% that overcome this neurological tendency have figured out a set of tools, started a practice of behaviors, or a created a habitual checklist—in other words, they have acquired the learnable skill of managing themselves.














Eva Rykrsmith

Eva Rykrsmith is an organizational psychology practitioner. Her passion lies in bringing a psychology perspective to the business world, with the mission of creating a high-performance environment. Follow her @EvaRykr.

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