The Golden Thread of Remarkable Leadership

In my last article I outlined the extraordinary leadership behaviour that is produced by the blending of the two characteristics warmth and strength. Calling it Catalyst Leadership, I also shared how many of the paradoxes that limit many leaders are overcome by embracing the genius of warmth and strength.

Indeed, this genius of warmth and strength is so central to the exercise of extraordinary leadership that when peering into reams of leadership research produced over the last few decades, we have been able to consistently discern their presence, as if their marriage produces a golden thread that ties together all the studies of more remarkable leadership.

In other words, if you were to ask the question “Which leadership style is best?”, the correct answer indicated by the research would be “one that is both warm and strong.”


In addition to the Torbert and Rooke CEO study quoted in an earlier article about transformative leaders, there are many other notable landmark research studies into the effectiveness of the sorts of leadership behaviours and styles that are produced when combining strength with warmth. To name just a few they include Deci and Ryan’s seminal works on Self Determination Theory, Adams and Anderson in Mastering Leadership, and Jim Collins ground-breaking Good to Great.


Good to Great through Strength and Warmth

Possibly the most-widely read management book of all time, Good to Great was published by management guru Jim Collins in 2001. In it he reported the results of a five-year examination by his team of over 1000 public companies to find what enabled just a few to become truly great.


When describing several unique characteristics great companies had in common, the type of leaders steering the enterprise was noted as especially important. Collins reported that these remarkable leaders possessed a combination of humility and fierce resolve, which in Collins’ eyes produced something quite extraordinary, calling it a “triumph”.


The combination of humility and fierce resolve was described as paradoxical for it seemed to involve the simultaneous exercise of opposing traits and behaviours. Collins didn’t know it at the time, but he was observing something that my later research into warmth and strength would reveal more fully.


The warmth-oriented humble behaviours he noted included attributing success to others but taking personal accountability for failures, never assuming they had all the answers, and above all else unassuming modesty, never demanding or needing to be the smartest or most important person in the room, instead preferring the spotlight to be on others doing the hard work.


The strength-oriented behaviours included fierce resolve, never accepting that the status quo is good enough, making hard tough decisions, courageously pursuing their convictions, and challenging their teams to reach higher and stretch further.

Collins had in effect found living, breathing real-life examples of the extraordinary impact of warm and strong leadership.