Who in your firm exhibits the
leadership qualities that can lift your staff to a higher
Julia Kramer and Todd Henshaw
Most firms try to define the leadership qualities and
behaviors they most admire because doing so helps firms set
expectations for their future leaders.
The process typically begins with a firm preparing a list of
things that good leaders should do. Sometimes the firm will use
a published leader competency template or set up leader
effectiveness measurements based on best practices
But wouldn’t it be more effective if each firm, rather
than accept a universal definition of effective leadership,
elected to build its own leader competency models to reflect
its own culture and objectives? Those that do are one step
ahead in ensuring that their emerging leaders have a clear
picture of what it takes to be promoted into positions of
Firms shouldn’t stop there. In addition to setting
clear behavioral and productivity standards for leaders,
forward-thinking firms also focus on who their leaders are.
Those in management roles actively observe and evaluate what
is frequently referred to as “character,” no longer
satisfied to use business results as the exclusive indicator of
advancement potential. Not that the bottom line has decreased
in importance. We still need leaders to be first and foremost
producers. But producing isn’t enough. Today leaders need
to achieve results by working collaboratively with their
followers. They need to create a workplace culture where
talented people want to stay, allowing the organization to
benefit from their abilities.
So how does a firm know who has the right stuff to achieve
required results and effectively lead, inspire and retain a
motivated and productive team? Many of us have learned the hard
way that some leaders get the immediate job done but leave a
bloodied and demoralized staff in their wake. To avoid this
imbalance, smart firms assess leaders on the way up not just on
business results but also on their ability to work with a team
and develop a positive culture. They identify leaders early on
who can maintain high levels of trust and confidence while
asking followers to accomplish very difficult things. They know
who can build relationships that endure over time and provide a
sense of purpose and belonging for everyone on the team. They
understand that the firm’s ultimate success is dependent
on the strong and positive relationships that leaders develop
with followers and other team members. They observe, they
evaluate, and they frequently use assessment tools to give
potential leaders a better understanding of the elements of
personality that drive leader behavior—both good and
There are many assessment tools on the market, and the best
of them identify those personality traits that create tension
in leader-follower relationships. Data from Fortune 500 firms
provide insight into the range of common, negative leader
descriptors, including “arrogant, indecisive, abrasive,
controlling, untrustworthy, narcissistic, insensitive and
But identifying personality traits is not an end in itself.
Assessments merely provide a starting point for a leadership
development program. Providing personality data to an
individual is one way to open his or her mind to leadership
learning and self-improvement. The data often catch
participants by surprise at first. But after they process the
information, they think of examples that confirm the results.
Once these connections are made, they begin to find ways to
improve their leadership skills.
Hogan Assessments is one example of a high-quality, valid
and reliable leader assessment. Years ago, West Point was
looking for ways to convince cadets of the need for
self-awareness and the continuous improvement necessary to be
effective leaders. They piloted the Hogan Challenge Report with
several classes of cadets and were pleased to learn that the
data caused cadets to take a closer look at their behavior.
Today, every cadet at West Point takes the Hogan Development
Survey, and each year Hogan collects leadership and personality
data on over 1,000 cadets.
Hogan Assessments are now regularly used with executives and
senior managers, and leadership programs that integrate these
assessments actually accelerate leader development.
Participants are able to use the Hogan data as a catalyst for
learning and can make the connection between program content
and the areas in need of improvement.
There are three assessments in the Hogan series. The first
examines those “bright side” characteristics that
make leaders successful, and the data gathered highlight those
areas where the participant might exhibit strength. The next
examines “dark side” characteristics that might
create challenges for participants as they work with others.
Finally, Hogan assesses key motivators for the participants,
revealing the reasons leaders choose different types of work
and seek different types of rewards.
Assessments form a multifaceted picture of a leader and
start or further the process of leadership development. The
data can be used in coaching and can be referenced as part of a
formal planning and change process.