It is generally accepted that leadership is the foundation for creation of a company’s business results. However, empirical evidence is lacking. This paper examines the relationship between leadership and key performance results based on Return on Leadership Model. The model links Denison’s four leadership traits to people results, customer results, and ultimately key performance results. Further specified, the model is a structural equation model with nine latent variables, each measured by a set of indicators, observed by survey questions. To validate the model, an empirical study was conducted, and 379 managers from medium‐sized and large companies in Denmark participated. The estimation of the model shows that the model structure explains return on leadership very well, and the findings support the developed model. We are able to quantify the relationships from leadership to people results, customer results and key performance results and, in this way, the data presented here provide evidence that leadership is linked to key performance results. Several results and applications of the model are shown. The findings provide new knowledge about how leadership can be linked to performance, and how excellent leadership creates key performance results.
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