Is ‘average’ leadership the enemy or an opportunity for growth?

Every large-scale organisation has a mass of average leaders across the management population, which must surely be limiting innovation and growth. And yes, managers at any level need to know how to lead and not just manage.

Could this however, be turned into an opportunity and even a strategic advantage if given the right levels of attention?

Let’s face it, there will always be bad leaders (the bottom 20%) just as there will always be good or great leaders (the top 20%) but this leaves a mass of average leaders (the 60% middle of the road performers) achieving neither good nor bad results.

What if it were possible to lift performance across this population instead of spending so much time praising and attempting to keep the top 20% or trying to limit the damage being done by the bottom 20%?

The truth is, many of the leaders delivering average performances are not necessarily average people, often they’re just uninspired, uneducated, unsupported, under-developed or ignored because they’re not causing any problems and consequently their talent and true potential are quite simply subdued or lost.

If businesses are to gain advantages of more people and teams in the average category realising more of their potential so better collective results are achieved across the masses, then they need to develop more of the ‘average’ leaders and not rely on just the top 20% to counteract the negative effects of the poor performers in the bottom 20%.

By way of just one example, this was done in a FTSE 100 sales channel involving 26 business managers, with 14 of the 16 ‘middle of the road’ performers improving results and 3 of these in particular, improving the sales performance of their teams to the point where they matched the top 20%. The bottom-line impact from the increases in performance amongst the ‘average’ teams was 9%, which delivered an ROI of 144 to 1.

You won’t improve all the managers or all of their people in the average category all the time of course but by giving them attention and a little nudge (development) you can light the fires in some that were previously dimmed.

All it took was a little education, some specific added-knowledge and one or two key things to unlearn that showed them alternative ways to get things done, better than ever!

Even one of the managers who’d initially resisted changing (improving) her style of leadership was amazed to see the difference in results and the fact that she didn’t need to change who she was but just accept that one way (her way) was not always the best way.

This became apparent after one of her breakfast team meetings where she received 3 post-meeting calls from members of her team asking if she’s had a brain transplant, a heart op or taken some kind of magic pill because it was the most inspiring meeting they’d ever attended with her. It felt that they were one team and not her versus them, they opened up to her in ways they’d been afraid to before and it made all the difference to them and to her!

It demonstrated that even if people have no desire to change (improve) the right kind of education can open minds to new ways, alternative ways, better ways to get improved results without having to put in any more effort or hours, it’s not about what you do but more about about how you do it.

I call this the ‘The 60% Rule’ and it’s delivered results in multiple situations where results had stagnated or fallen short of requirements and uncovered stars who previously went unnoticed, stars who are still shining brightly in this FTSE 100 as it happens.

Talent pools are full of ‘high potential’ candidates for future leadership positions and who receive a lot of time, attention and development but are businesses missing a vital trick and doing a disservice to those who are seen as average and have been performing to average standards but with some help, could also become top performers and/or future leaders?



Founder & Chief Strategist at RPA | Strategic Leadership Coach & Facilitator

You can see more detailed information about ‘The 60% Rule’ here or you can contact me here for a chat and more information.



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Reece Pye

Reece Pye


Writer, Speaker, Educator | On A Mission To Make People Feel Better About Themselves & Lifes Possibilities | Author: Strong Minds